A broadcast based in Australia recently highlighted the work of a Ugandan pastor who rehabilitates children who have been attacked by witch doctors in the country, as well as his efforts to bring those who engage in child sacrifice to justice.
The SBS Dateline episode “How to Catch a Witch Doctor” features Peter Sewakiryanga of Rehabilitation Kyampisi Childcare Ministries. Sewakiryanga is a former accountant turned minister and has been fighting child sacrifice for nearly 10 years. He works with an estimated 20-25 children each year who are victims of witch doctors.
“Child sacrifice is a recent phenomenon. It’s a recent problem,” he explained. “They mutilate children and use their blood, tissues or any bodily organs with the belief that when you use those body parts in witchcraft rituals, you will get wealth, you get protection [or] you get some form of blessing.”
Judge Margaret Mutony is sympathetic to Sewakiryanga’s cause and supportive of his work.
“We have a society that believes in witchcraft. The majority of the population, including the Christians who go to church, they consult these witch doctors,” she said.
One of the children highlighted in the episode is a teenager named Allan Semwanga. He was captured when he was six years old, taken into the bush and cut with a machete. He still bears a large scar on his head to this day.
“Sometimes it is difficult to talk about what happened to me,” he stated. “And sometimes when I talk about it, I cry because I remember the injuries I got. I remember when I was taken. I tried to struggle and to run. [But] they hit me up and did whatever they wanted.”
To add insult to the boy’s injuries, the two men who attacked Semwanga for witchcraft purposes are longtime acquaintances of his father.
“I went to school with them. I grew up with them. We used to treat each other as family,” said Hudson Semwanga. “Why, why, why did they do it? I cannot feel good while they are free.”
The assailants were never brought to justice because the court would not accept the testimony of a six-year-old child. The courts in Uganda also reportedly are under-funded and so victims sometimes never obtain legal vindication.
But, thanks to funding aid from a Christian man in Australia, the boy’s case was finally reopened. Sewakiryanga therefore went to work to help locate the men that they might be brought before the courts. One is arrested and the other remains on the loose for a time, but is ultimately tracked down in the dark of night and taken into custody.
“Sometimes I feel like giving up, but then you hear of a case and ask, ‘Who is following up on this? Who is finding justice on this child’s case?’ And then you go back into it,” the pastor said.
“The child sacrifice doesn’t represent Uganda,” he stated. “It carries shame for me as a Ugandan because this is not something that I should portray about Uganda. But, if this will save one child, I will carry on.”