Salesian Missionaries in Togo Caring for Children Accused of Witchcraft

Saving Africa's Witch Children, a documentary that featured shocking stories of torture inflicted on children in Nigeria.

Members of the Religious Institute of the Salesians of Don Bosco (SDB) in the West African nation of Togo are caring for children who, because of being slightly different from others, are accused of witchcraft and risk “deadly consequences.”

The Salesians provide shelter for these children at Don Bosco Center within the region covered by the Catholic Diocese of Kara located in the northern part of the country, offering them “a loving home where they can recover from their physical and emotional wounds.”

At Don Bosco Center in Kara, “Salesian missionaries counter the deeply rooted cultural beliefs that routinely demonize children and blame them for illnesses, deaths and other misfortunes that are more accurately the outcome of overwhelming poverty,” the leadership of SDB has reported.

In a report published June 8 by Mission Newswire, the official news service of the U.S.-based Salesian Missions that supports the Don Bosco Kara project, the Center also provides opportunities to break the cycle of poverty through education and training.

According to a 2017 France24 report on Togo, belief in the reality and power of witchcraft is widespread in the country with “children who are slightly different from the others” bearing the brunt. The differences in question would be physical disability, “mental handicap, hyperactivity or being intellectually gifted.”


As a result of being accused of witchcraft, which sometimes takes the form of being held responsible for deaths in their respective families, the children are subjected to different forms of abuse including torture, forced labor, and kidnappings among others.

In 2014, SDB members in Togo released the report “Children accused of witchcraft in the Kara region,” which aimed at bringing awareness to the international community on the plight of the affected children who often face abuse and deadly consequences.

The report inspired award-winning filmmaker Raúl de la Fuente to produce the documentary film “Yo no soy bruja” (“I’m not a witch”), sponsored by the Salesian Missions office in Madrid to shed light on the struggles of children in the West African nation.

“The report and film are part of the “I’m not a witch” campaign, which was launched in 2014 by Salesian Missions Madrid to address the ongoing child abuse and violence faced by children in Togo and other areas of Africa and Asia as a result of poverty and tribal traditions,” SDB leadership has reported.

Those spearheading the campaign work alongside families, community members, relevant governments officials and members of the international community to raise awareness while highlighting the root causes and conditions that lead to accusations of witchcraft as well as the resulting violations of children’s basic rights.

More in Africa

“When there are several deaths or illnesses in the same family, the culprit is usually looked for in the clan. If it is a boy who has no mother and lives with his stepmother, she will look at the one who is not her own son. Whatever is different,” the Union Journal has quoted the film producer as saying.

Among the children whose plight is highlighted in the film is Georgette, a girl whose hands were badly burnt causing her fingers to be amputated after her stepmother submerged them in boiling water on allegations that she was a witch.

“Georgette was second in her class. She is very smart. In her family, she was the only one who progressed and that is why the stepmother condemned her as a witch,” the Director of  Don Bosco Center, Kara, Fr. José Luis De la Fuente has been quoted as saying.

He adds, “Those who get very good grades and outshine others, those who do not study, those who steal, and those who are a little more aggressive than the rest are all at risk.”

According to Fr. Jose, accusations of witchcraft are on the rise in the region. “In one Salesian shelter housing 110 children, 40 percent of them were accused of performing witchcraft, an increase from 20 percent in 2010,” he has said, underscoring the value of the initiative by his Religious Order to ensure the livelihood of the victimized children.