A church in Togo, where more than 50 percent of people practice animism or other occult religions, a church fought to free a six-year-old girl from a Voodoo shrine. More than 50 percent of people in the country practice some sort of occult religion, and fetishes are common in markets.
At a young age, the children of Akodessewa, Togo, are exposed to the basics of Voodoo. At markets, there are skulls and bones of animals on display for all to buy. Voodoo practitioners believe these fetishes have powers, like other amulets and animal parts for sale at these markets. While the practice of Voodoo varies widely across cultures, it generally involves communing with spirits of ancestors for guidance and powers.
Since Voodoo, or “Vodun,” is endemic in Togo, some children work at fetish markets and live in shrines, sometimes abused, instead of going to school. Voodoo priests and priestesses consult spirits to determine how and when children in the community should be initiated into their congregations. The initiation can require children to live in a shrine for years, consuming animal blood, raw meat and worse. Some kids earn money for the shrines by working at fetish markets or begging.
Even many Christians in Togo mix animistic beliefs with their faith in Christ and build fetishes in hopes of receiving protection from evil spirits. The promise of prosperity and control seems especially attractive in impoverished places, where people who have never had access to an education are desperate to ease their suffering. Some Togolese parents allow their children to live in shrines because they fear punishment from spirits if they don’t.
Only about 29 percent of people in Togo are Christian, and Compassion’s church-run centers are a safe haven for children as they play and learn about Christ. This being said, many Voodoo followers reject black magic and do not harm others. But in some communities, the use of body parts and fluids in rituals turns children into targets. Compassion’s church partners commit to knowing, loving and protecting every sponsored child. That commitment became evident recently when a girl named Aklobessi stopped showing up for Compassion activities.