I recently read about an emerging situation in Angola, Congo, and the Congo Republic speaking about accusations of witchcraft which led to severe physical abuse. What I found most disturbing about this article was that the people being accused, and abused, were children. Most of them were less than 12 years old. Reading about this situation made me think. The situation concerned me because of the stress in the article on how this was not an uncommon thing amongst the people in these parts of Africa. In that particular area it is not uncommon to accuse a child of witchcraft and cast them out of the family. After all, in an area also struck by hunger and poverty casting a child out of the family means one less mouth to feed.

Children are eager to learn because there is so much that they have never seen. The innocence in children is special, and since it can never be retreated back to, it is something that should be kept as long as possible. Unfortunately the children of these countries are losing this innocence quickly. A child is changed when they are hung upside down from a rope over a hard dirt floor, hearing the screams of their family around them to confess to witchcraft. If they don't confess, the rope will be cut. I think it is an event like this that makes a child lose their innocence forever.

I am concerned about the citizens of our country. I don't care that we have the biggest houses and most wealth of any other nation. I care that amongst this wealth are some of the least educated people when it comes to issues around the world. I care that these children in Africa are being tortured and shunned by their community, many times simply because it makes a family feel better about no longer supporting their child. Making an accusation such as witchcraft in these parts of Africa makes the community understand why a family is no longer supporting their children.

Ignorance is one of the greatest weaknesses of the people of this country. Ignorance means not understanding the world around you. Ignorance means being sheltered from the real world. Ignorance is weakness because it is lack of knowledge. In a country with such an abundance of materials to supply our people with this knowledge, where have we gone wrong? We need to find a way to educate the people of our country. We need to find a way to open people's eyes to world issues. We need to instill in our citizens that there are issues beyond those seen in their everyday lives. We need to get this ignorance out of our country.

Julia Hayer of Warren is a Harwood Union High School student (class 2009).