“We can bury the child alive on your construction site, or we cut them in different places and put their blood in a bottle of spiritual medicine,” the witch doctor said. He was speaking with a reporter from the British Broadcasting Company (BBC), investigating rising rates of child sacrifice in Uganda, posing as a businessman.
Officials from the 13-million-member Church of Uganda told a delegation from David C Cook in early February about the growing problem of cultic child murders. They brought out letters from children and adults who are terrified. One child was so traumatized by the practice that, rather than talk about it, drew the picture above instead.
Churches there are raising their voices against such rituals, which some people superstitiously believe bring wealth or other good fortune. Pastor Peter Sewakiryanga of Kyampisi Chilcare Ministries says,
There are people who are willing to buy these children for a price. So they have become a commodity of exchange, child sacrifice has become a commercial business.
The villages and farming communities that surround Uganda’s capital, Kampala, are gripped by fear. Teachers and parents watch schoolchildren closely as they go to and from school. Posters on roadsides and in playgrounds warn of the very real dangers of abduction.
The Church of Uganda is mobilizing to specifically fight these horrifying practices. It and other churches asked David C Cook for trauma counseling materials that church and lay leaders will use to help children cope with fear. This is one component of an extensive revamping of the denomination’s children’s materials that Cook is helping them accomplish at no charge.
The smiling girl in the newspaper photo is dead, just one of hundreds of recent child sacrifice killings. People close to the situation estimate 900 such ritual murders in the last four years, a number far higher than official police counts. Pastors say police can’t, or won’t, do much about child sacrifice. So they and their church members are lobbying Uganda’s government to regulate the witch doctors and prosecute those responsible for attacks on children.
The BBC reporter explained how he had asked around the community and had little trouble finding a witch doctor who demanded $390 for killing the child which, he claimed, would guarantee financial success for a construction project. The witch doctor boasted that he knew what he was doing, that he had sacrificed many children. The reporter then pulled out of the talks and gave his notes to the police. Yet, that witch doctor was not arrested.
One heartbroken, elderly woman found her six-year-old grandson dead in a nearby field. Clutching her only photo of the boy, she sobbed as she told how the witch doctor even admitted to the murder, but police did not want to pursue the case. She said,
They offered me money to keep quiet, but I refused.
In some cases, even family members sell children. ABC News carried the horrific story of a father selling his 17-month-old son for ritual sacrifice. The father said he wanted money to set up a business fixing bicycles, so he and his friend beheaded the infant boy and sold his head to a wealthy businessman for $2000. According to the report, the businessman who bought the head imagined it would bring him more wealth.
Nor is child sacrifice limited to Africa. In Hyderabad, India, police say they recovered the body of a 14-year-old boy murdered by people thinking human sacrifice would find them a treasure rumored to be hidden in the ruins of a nearby fort. Authorities say one man has confessed to enticing the boy with snacks, then selling him for about $900 to a group of eight men who killed him but remain at large.
David C Cook has a strong reputation for more than a century for ministry to children. Our Sunday school programs are well known. Increasingly, however, Cook’s work is expanding with ministry to children in extreme situations. Thousands of leaders in Haiti learned how to counsel both children and adults following the earthquake. Cook resources are widely used in India with orphans rescued from abuse and abandonment. Churches and other Christian organizations are starting to use these same resources in Romania, Bangladesh, Ukraine and Mexico. Now, these same gospel and emotional healing resources are being fine-tuned to help terrified children in East Africa.