Another ‘Witch’ Hunt in Nigeria

The indispensable Leo Igwe, an African rationalist and human rights activist who was at The Amazing Meeting recently, is drawing attention to yet another crusade at a Nigerian Pentecostal church that might well incite another round of attacks on “witches.”

On July 27, a local Pentecostal church is planning a ‘crusade’ at the Cultural Centre in Calabar in Cross River State. The theme of the event is: Koboko Night: My Father My Father That Witch Must Die.The same church has, in March, organized a similar event in Uyo, Akwa Ibom state.

Akwa Ibom is another state where witch belief is strong and witchcraft related abuse is common and widespread. The activities of churches and prayer houses have been linked to the problem of witch hunting in the region.

Once again I want to draw the attention of the authorities to the activities of this church and other churches in the region that are fueling witch hunting in the name of spreading the gospel.

[..]the theme of this crusade is literally inciting, and could lead to an upsurge of witch persecution and killings in the region. The title Koboko Night implies torture and abuse of any alleged witch. This could cause some people to go home and start beating up their children or aging parents whom they suspect of witchcraft.

And then adding ‘That witch must die’ makes it more horrifying. It clearly sanctions death and execution of any alleged witch. This clause alone can cause people to murder or commit atrocious acts against family or community members whom they believe are witches.

Untold numbers of people, especially children, have been killed in many countries in Africa because of such crusades.

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  • “Untold” numbers? Is anyone trying to tell the numbers? ‘Cause we all could use at least a hint of how big this atrocity really is.

  • raven

    The numbers aren’t too well known. This is Africa and this is murder.

    Most estimates are around a 1,000 a year, almost all children.

    They pick on children for an obvious reason. Children aren’t likely to be carrying a gun and are defenseless. Africa is saturated with guns. While an alleged adult witch won’t be able to turn their attackers into frogs, they can always shoot them.

    This is, of course, the difference between religion and reality.

  • raven

    There are a few organizations and people trying to stop the child witch hunts-murderers.

    AFAICT, most of them are seculars. One group rescues children who survive exorcisms, who are often horrifically injured. One kid’s mother tried to remove the top of his skull to let the evil spirits out.

    Leo Igwe, an African rationalist and human rights activist

    The usual. The moderate xians seem to be MIA. Again.

  • Sastra

    raven #3 wrote:

    One kid’s mother tried to remove the top of his skull to let the evil spirits out.

    Ah, must be an example of that pure, honest, deep spiritual wisdom still to be found in primitive non-western cultures that my neo-pagan friends keep going on about with such admiration and envy.

  • If there are any Christians with sane morals present who want to express their rage about these witch hunts, don’t hesitate to speak up.

    It’d be a refreshing break for me, since I mostly hear from the crazy amoral fundies.

    Ah, must be an example of that pure, honest, deep spiritual wisdom still to be found in primitive non-western cultures that my neo-pagan friends keep going on about with such admiration and envy.

    Man, it’s been a long time since I’ve encountered one of those sorts. Once went through a similar phase, but that kind of faded as I found out that jerkiness is pretty much universal to all societies.

  • chrisdevries

    Believing that witchcraft is a serious problem is a vestige of our superstitious, ignorant past. The fact that it’s evangelical Christians running the witch hunt is predictable, if not depressingly so; reliving the glory days, eh guys? The continued existence of these kinds of real-life travesties is one of the main reasons I remain an anti-theist: the religious mind dreams up all sorts of terrible things, and the in-group dynamics (specifically the ideological cohesion) allow these insane memes to take hold and become real problems. Sure there is benign religion, but whenever you allow for the possibility of belief without evidence, the door is open to all sorts of insanity.

    Do these people not know that the term “witch hunt” is generally used nowadays in a metaphorical sense, indicating obsessive and irrational persecution against an “otherised” group by a member or group of members of the privileged class(es)? This is generally because we now know that there’s no such thing as a real witch (y’know, one that can break the laws of physics), and thus that the real witch hunts in which Europeans and Americans participated were basically persecution of women and minorities in the guise of just action against an epidemic or witchcraft. Engaging in a witch hunt nowadays can mean attempting to persecute any ideological minority – socialists, atheists, Muslims, for example – but the whole reason the term works is because we KNOW THERE’S NO SUCH THING AS A WITCH. Witch hunts are therefore by definition unjust and irrational.

    Those who do not study and learn from history are doomed to repeat it, and there are a whole heck of a lot of religion-spawned BAD IDEAS that in today’s modern society are even poorly regarded by most religious people; the uneducated and the ignorant, however, relying upon Biblical scholarship alone, are doomed to dredge up these ideas and run with them. And without good (secular) government-monitored education systems, you risk producing large quantities of religious idiots who tread these paths long abandoned by everyone else. The problem is far from limited to Africa and other developing world locations: private, evangelical protestant education institutions in the United States are producing a very similar breed of delusional morons.

    It is truly amazing what some people, to this day, believe. Witchcraft in Africa is the tip of a very ugly iceberg.

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