In a modern day context the term ‘witchcraft’ evokes ideas of Harry Potter and Halloween fancy dress. The concept of witch-hunts, of burning at the stake, is one readily associated with medieval ideology from an uncivilised time. Movies involving exorcism are used to scare their audiences. The idea of the concept existing in reality is one often brushed off as irrational.
In the news recently a shocking instance of violence was brought to light – violence in the name of witchcraft. 15-year-old Kristy was murdered by his sister Magalie Bamu, 29, and her boyfriend Eric Bikubi, 28, due to them believing he was a witch. A horrifically violent exorcism, involving a hammer, chisel, knives and metal bars, left Kristy begging to die. Kristy was staying with the couple in London, along with his other siblings, for Christmas. Bikubi accused them of bringing witchcraft or ‘Kindoki’ into the house. Two of Kristy’s siblings were also subjected to torture but Kristy became the main focus of attention after wetting himself. The wasn’t the first time the couple has accused someone of being a witch. In 2008 Bikubi accused one of their house guests of being a witch after he caught her biting her nails. The girl was then subjected to three food-less, sleepless days of praying with the couple to release the ‘Kindoki’ as well as having her long hair cut short to release the spirits. An artist’s depiction of them in court is above.
The killers were originally from the Democratic Republic of Congo, where some still practice the religion of Kindoki. Despite the fact that it is illegal there to accuse a child of being possessed, some churches charge parents to perform exorcism on their children who they’ve diagnosed with Kindoki. Children can be made to fast and pray for days as well as being subjected to beatings and burning. In some cases, the Pastor will push a pipe against their stomachs and suck out a piece of meat they claim to be the source of their infection. Local charities say that high unemployment as well as unaffordable healthcare are pushing people towards these churches for help.
Lionel Paka Makola, a 14-year-old living in one of the slums in the country’s capital, Kinshasa, told Sky News how he was beaten and thrown out of his home when he was accused of engaging in witchcraft. The boy happened to have borrowed his father’s pen on the same day that his father, a 52-year-old lawyer called Thomas, failed to get a new job. Thomas went to a Pastor for advice, who he now realises conned him, “The pastors work for money because our economy is not working. They are running after money, the pastors are wrong, false.” Happily Lionel has since been reunited with his family, but not all children are as lucky. Unicef reported in 2010 that there were 200,000 children made homeless in Kinshasa, on account of them being involved in witchcraft.
In 2005, Sita Kisanga was found guilty of torturing an eight-year-old in London, believing the girl to have kindoki. She explained that, “Kindoki is something you have to be scared of because in our culture Kindoki can kill and destroy your life completely”.
Scotland Yard have reported that over the past 10 years it has seen 83 cases of violence in the name of ritualistic or faith-based beliefs. However this is a crime that more often than not goes under the radar and police have warned that the amount of children who are in danger of facing such a threat is at a risk of increasing.