My name is Mpunga Niclette, originally from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, a mother of five. I’ve been living in Malawi for over seven years now, and during this time, I’ve been deeply disturbed by a phenomenon that has captivated my attention – the presence of countless young orphaned children on the streets of big cities like Blantyre, Lilongwe, and Mzuzu.
I embarked on a mission to uncover the reasons behind this heartbreaking situation. What I discovered shook me to my core. Many of these innocent children had been abandoned by their families who had accused them of being sorcerers responsible for the lack of prosperity and success in their lives.
Upon digging deeper, I realized that in Malawi, there were more churches than companies, and within these churches, pastors and prophets made grand promises of wealth, prosperity, marriage, family stability, and success. The desperation among the people was palpable, leading them to place more faith in these prophets and pastors than in scientists and specialists. This phenomenon was not unique to Malawi; it could be observed across Africa.
As a consequence of these baseless accusations, my friend Claudine Kabedi suffered the anguish of being rejected by her own children following the death of her husband. She was labeled a witch by the very people who were supposed to provide her with support. In some cases, orphans were cast onto the streets after the demise of one or both parents, their own families accusing them of being responsible for their parents’ deaths.
This deeply distressing reality weighed heavily on my heart, and I knew that something needed to be done before it was too late. I initiated a sensitization campaign to mobilize both parents and guardians, aiming to help them understand the grave risks associated with these accusations and to provide solutions. Unfortunately, the government’s efforts to address this issue were lackluster, mainly due to the substantial influence wielded by these evangelical pastors and prophets.
Furthermore, I observed that many people were afraid to openly discuss this issue, even on television or radio, fearing that they might be labeled agents of the devil themselves. However, I was resolute in my commitment to protect the children who were being abused by these false prophets and to reunite families torn apart by these baseless accusations.
My mission was clear: to do whatever it took to shield these innocent children from harm and to bring families together to combat this issue collectively. I collaborated with like-minded individuals and organizations, fostering a sense of community and support for those affected.
Over time, our efforts began to bear fruit. We provided counseling and legal support to those wrongly accused and ostracized. We educated parents and guardians about the dangers of these false accusations and the harm they caused to both children and families. Slowly but surely, we started to see a shift in public perception, and more people dared to speak out against these unscrupulous prophets and pastors.
Though the road ahead remained challenging, we were determined to make a difference. The danger of modern-day prophets and evangelical pastors to orphans in Malawi was a dark chapter in our country’s history, but together, we were working tirelessly to rewrite it, ensuring a brighter future for the innocent children who had suffered so unjustly.
On the contrary, it’s important to emphasize that conducting this research presented numerous challenges. To begin with, many Malawians express discontent when individuals write such narratives about their nation, asserting that it tarnishes their country’s reputation. Additionally, this research necessitates financial support, given that I collaborate with a team of five individuals, and we must travel to various regions of Malawi for interviews, team accommodation, and other expenses. Furthermore, some of the pastors and prophets we investigate are unhappy with our work, viewing us as a threat to their activities and issuing threats against us. In fact, this August, while returning from Lilongwe, we were apprehended by unidentified individuals who confiscated our cameras and laptops, warning us not to write about church-related matters, or face severe consequences.
Despite these obstacles, we remain resolute in our commitment to share authentic stories, allowing people to comprehend the challenges in our society, with the hope that we can collectively address the issue effectively.
Conversely, in terms of accomplishments, our progress has been limited thus far. However, we’ve received encouragement from various sources, particularly from past and present victims of abuse, influential members of civil society, and some pastors who oppose the actions of their peers. We have been collaborating with some of them to support victims, report new cases to relevant authorities, and raise awareness among families about this prevalent issue affecting our society.
Regarding the organizational context, I operate under the umbrella of Advocacy Training and Education – Hub (ATE-Hub), based in the Dzaleka Refugee Camp in Malawi. https://www.atehub.org/
30 October, 2023