In theDemocratic Republic of Congo, thousands of outcast children are rejected by their families, forced in to homelessness and trafficking, and are accused of witchcraft.
Thousands of children, accused of practising black magic, bringing bad luck or being possessed find themselves edged out of society, according to Agenzia Fides. As mamny as 30,000 children live on the streets of Kinshasha, the DRC's capital city.
The accused children are subjected to 'purification' or exorcism rituals, particularly in Pentecostal communities. The practice makes the exorcising pastors rich and allows families to relinquish troublesome children. Even when children are said to be healed, most families reportedly refuse to take back their children, forcing them into a life of begging or stealing on the streets. The outcast girls are forced into prostitution.
On Monday, Pope Francis called human trafficking a 'form of slavery, a crime against humanity, a grave violation of human rights, an atrocious scourge, and it is all the more to be condemned when it takes place against children'.
The pontiff was addressing the child trafficking crisis at the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) in Vienna, according to Crux. The OSCE has fought against human trafficking since 2003.
Speaking on behalf of the Pope, Father Michael Czerny told the OSCE: 'All too many children continue to be exploited, maltreated, enslaved, prey to violence and illicit trafficking.
'Still too many children live in exile, as refugees, at times lost at sea, particularly in the waters of the Mediterranean.'
He said that 'several factors increase the vulnerability of the child victims, namely endemic poverty, inadequate child protection, ignorance and cultural constraints', in the trafficking victims' region of origin.
He highlighted the need for three P's: prevention of trafficking, protection of the vulnerable, and prosecution of the guilty. He also introduced a fourth factor: partnership – urging the collaboration of state, civic and religious groups in the fight against the illegal trade.
In 2014, Pope Francis oversaw the formation of the Santa Marta group, which unites religious groups and police forces from over 30 countries in the battle against trafficking. Religious workers are the most likely to be approached by a trafficking victim.