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The dangerous fight for the 'child witches' of Nigeria

Thanks to KimZ for the link.

"Unlike other ministries where witches and wizards are beaten or stoned to death, Liberty is the only Ministry that shows mercy to witches." So boast the Liberty Foundation Gospel Ministries, whose leader, Helen Ukpabio, is claimed to be one of Nigeria's leading 'deliverers' of witches - ministering to up to a thousand at a time.

Humanist campaigner Leo Igwe and other rational-minded people in West Africa take a rather dim view of branding children 'witches', and claim that in many cases deliverance is far from the serene and gentle experience it is claimed to be. According to Igwe and charities working in the region, children "are taken to churches where they are subjected to inhumane and degrading torture in the name of 'exorcism'. They are chained, starved, hacked with machetes, lynched or murdered in cold blood." Some are apparently bathed in acid.

Criticizing these churches is not a great idea if you value a hassle-free life. In 2009 around 200 of Ukpabio's Liberty followers stormed a meeting of humanists as Igwe prepared to speak, bringing the event to an abrupt and violent end. Fortunately the police were called and intervened, but Liberty immediately sued for $1.3m dollars, apparently incensed that a meeting critical of their activities was allowed by the authorities to go ahead. The case was swiftly dismissed by Justice P.J. Nneke at the Federal High Court in Calabar.

Unfortunately the authorities aren't always on the right side. Religious groups and powerful individuals can wield significant power and influence, especially in local communities, and even senior police officers and lawmakers may share their belief in witchcraft.

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TAGGED: CHILDREN, HARM


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