Brutalities in the name of Jesus Christ
Imagine getting a nail driven into your head or
Getting covered in boiling cooking oil or
Having to drink a coction with the ‘bishops’ blood and
.....you are not even ten years old.
Africa has its moments of beauty and happiness and its moments of despair and violence.
But what is happening in Nigeria is something that goes beyond the imaginable. Dodgy, money hungry characters pretending to be priest, bishops and ‘healers of evil’ are randomly accusing (very) young innocent children of all the misfortune and misery in their families: the death of a loved one, unemployment, the failing of a crop or illness. These innocent children get branded as Satan’s Witches.
The mix of traditional beliefs and the import of christianity through missionaries has resulted in a brew of emotions that is potentially lethal for the most vulnerable in society. Especially the Nigerian pentecostal churches have their arrows aimed at children, justifying their acts by referring to certain verses in the bible and taking those literally. Exodus 22:18: “Suffer not a witch to live” plays a major role in this. If you scream this loud in especially the provinces Akwa Ibom and Cross Rivers, many quickly will start listening and since witchcraft has always played an important role, influencing and scaring people in Nigeria and other parts of Africa is very easy.
Liberty Gospel Church
One name that keeps coming up is that of Helen Ukpabio, a mother of three, who through her believe in demonic possession has managed to inspire many in Nigeria to become a member of the Liberty Foundation Gospel Ministry. Her website explains the beliefs of her church and some of her controversial books and movies are on sale through the E-shop. Her film company clearly tries to increase the belief in witch-children through movies like ‘End of the Wicked’.
Under the heading ‘Child Witch’ she claims that her church will never harm witches and that only her ministry shows mercy. I am sure that she is right when she claims that, as all others that were trained by her will be doing the gruesome jobs of exorcism.
Eventually it is the family and the community through their strong beliefs that will do the (physical) harm to the children, thus leaving her outside the line of fire.
Stepping Stone Nigeria (SSN)
Another name that gets the positive spotlights is that of Gary Foxcroft and his organization called ‘Stepping Stone Nigeria’. After having worked in the oil industry in Nigeria, this Brit decided to devote his energy in the protection of wounded, maimed and rejected children. Together with a few nationals who see the absurdity of Ukpabio, they have set up a school and a safe shelter for children being accused of being a witch.
One of Foxcroft’s supporters and aides is Leo Igwe, a Nigerian Humanist that wants to stop the dangerous practices of the Liberty Gospel Church as well.
Needless to say that Ukpabio is doing everything possible to make Foxcroft’s and Igwe’s life miserable and dangerous. Recently she filed a lawsuit against them and claimed more than one million USD for not being able to freely spread the gospel.
After her second ‘no-show’ on February 4th 2010, the court fortunately decided to drop the case.
Leo Igwe writes a lot about religion in his country and publishes the articles on his blog.
Unfortunately the children of Nigeria are not the only ones suffering. The idea that children can be witches is widespread in Africa has can be seen from this article with footage from Uganda.
People like Helen Ukpabio have to be stopped, not only in Nigeria but all over Africa. Not because they preach weird ideologies, but simply because those ideologies interfere with the innocence of children and lead to physical harm. Crimes are again committed in the name of Jesus Christ.
So who of the religious leaders should stand up and condemn these practices?
Since in many parts of Africa we see a mix of religions and superstition, this question is not easy to answer. Yet, every day children are suffering.
Seeing the views of the pope on the use of condoms and Africa, I am afraid that we should not expect too much action from his side. The child abuse cases in the Roman Catholic church makes it even more difficult to take a firm stance against the brutalities in Nigeria.
Two documentaries were made about the Witch Children of Nigeria. The first one in 2008 and the second one a year later. Strangely enough I saw all parts last week of the 2008 documentary. Now several (graphic) parts are missing (?).
For those of you that want to sign a petition against Ukpabio, you can click here.
Or you can give support by visiting the website of PACT (Prevent Abuse of Children Today).