Every child deserves happiness at Christmas. But for many children, Christmas is about survival.
This Christmas as families come together and young children eagerly anticipate the thrill of Christmas morning, spare a thought for children who are facing an accusation of child witchcraft.
Children like Rutendo.
For children who have been told they are a child witch, Christmas Day will be far removed from magic and make believe, in stark contrast it will be a day of fear, pain and hunger.
When children are accused of witchcraft they face the daily torment of being beaten, mutilated, maimed, publicly humiliated, even sexually abused. Some of these children, like Rutendo, are as young as 3 years old.
It's hard to imagine what a child so young could possibly have done to become the victim of such dreadful persecution. But children become victims of witchcraft accusations for many reasons. It may be that illness, injury or misfortune has devastated their family or community.
It could be that the child in question is themselves ‘different’; they may have a disability, be intellectually gifted, albino or from a multiple birth. Very often, as in Rutendo's case, it is the youngest, weakest or most vulnerable child who is singled out. In the majority of these cases the child will be under the age of 10.
This Christmas, these children will be hiding in fear, instead of playing carefree. They will be keeping out of the way and hoping that, just for one day, the witch-hunt will stop.
Because when a child is accused of witchcraft it is common for an entire village to unite in driving the persecuted child out of the community. Or, driving the witch out of the child.
Neither presents good outcomes for the child accused. One means sleeping rough on the streets where there are dangers of kidnap and child traffickers at every turn. The other means staying put and being forced to undergo brutal exorcisms and ingest toxic ‘potions’.
No one deserves a childhood like this.
Yet witch hunts and Human rights abuses like this, happen with a frightening regularity in the Niger Delta. And failed police and social care systems, mean that abusers go unchallenged, while innocent children like Rutendo, have no-where else to go.
But they could, with your help.
This Christmas, would you be willing to spare £25.00 or whatever you can afford, to help us help a child, like Rutendo, who has been accused of witchcraft?
We are so grateful for every penny of support you have given in 2017. This year, we have made significant operational changes to streamline the costs of our service delivery, so that more than ever, your support reaches those children who need it most.
If you could spare £25.00 this Christmas, you could help us fund a place for abused, tortured and persecuted children in the safety of our Emergency Safehouse Shelter in Calabar, Cross Rivers State. Here they will be cared for by our expert Child Support team, given nutritious food, medical care, warm and appropriate clothing and a safe and comfortable bed, until a longer term, more permanent solution can be arranged.
For a persecuted child, this Christmas, your donation could be the difference between hunger and health; fear and peace of mind.
Everyone deserves a childhood like that, don't they?