The Nigerian Witch Hunts Begin Anew

The amazing Leo Igwe has a guest post at Ophelia’s blog about Helen Ukpabio, the Pentecostal preacher most responsible for the horrifying witch hunts in Nigeria, restarting her crusade to hunt yet more “witches” in that country. This stuff is so retrograde it’s shocking. This is the 21st century, right?

The theme of the event is ‘Witches on the Run”. Ukpabio is inviting people to come for “free deliverance”. She qualified the deliverance as free just to create the impression that she won’t be charging any fee, and she would not generate income from it!

The poster has an image of a cat at the background. A cat is locally believed to be a witch’s familiar in the region. The image of this familiar invokes fears and fantasies of impending danger or misfortune in the minds of the local population…

Ukpabio has literally re-launched her witch hunting ministry which is blamed for the menace of child witchcraft allegations and human rights abuses in the region.

For some time now her ministry has been criticized locally and internationally because of its role in fueling witchcraft accusations and related abuses in Nigeria and beyond.

But she appears unrepentant, and unfazed by the criticisms.

A few months ago I discovered the “other” folder on Facebook, where dozens of messages sent to me by people I don’t know had been archived (and I’d never seen them). Three of them were from supporters of Ukpabio telling me what a horrible person Igwe is and how dare I support him! Well I dare. I think he’s a hero. And I’m going to try to bring him to the United States next summer for a speaking tour in the Great Lakes area.

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  • Doug Little

    And I’m going to try to bring him to the United States next summer for a speaking tour in the Great Lakes area.

    I’m down with that.

  • “And I’m going to try to bring him to the United States next summer for a speaking tour in the Great Lakes area.”

    But what if he turns the Great Lakes into blood???!!

  • Doug Little

    But what if he turns the Great Lakes into blood???!!

    Make black pudding?

  • raven

    The poster has an image of a cat at the background. A cat is locally believed to be a witch’s familiar in the region.

    Bunch of superstitious idiots.

    Picking on cats again. The last time they did this was during the Dark Ages. One of the xians bright ideas during the Black Plague years was to kill cats. Which was really dumb. Cats eat rats and rats are what was spreading the Black Plague via their fleas.

    (Some cats eat rats anyway. My old feral cats would occasionally kill a rat and leave it. My friend’s house cat is afraid of them though.)

    It’s not just in Africa though. A superstitious Mormon once asked my friend if she was a witch. The proof was a picture of her cat on her desk, who was a black cat.

  • raven

    The African xian witch hunting sounds horrible until you look into it. Then it looks a lot worse.

    1. It’s mostly children, somewhere around 1,000 a year are killed.

    2. They pick on children for a good reason. They are unlikely to be carrying a gun and make easy targets. Africa is saturated with guns and accusing an adult of being a witch can be dangerous. They can and will shoot back.

    3. They quite often torture the kids before they kill them. And I’m stopping here. If you don’t want to sleep well at night, look it up on Google.

    4. A key point. The xian churches have done absolutely nothing to stop it. In fact, the fundie churches are usually the ones doing it. You could excuse the fundies for being ignorant murderers because that is what they do. But the mainline churches haven’t done anything to stop it.

    I have found a few groups trying to stop the killings. AFAICT, they are all…secular.

  • busterggi

    Cue the apologists who say ‘real’ Christians no longer do such things.

  • I’m depressed, but not shocked. I’ve had students in Chicago with views this pre-modern.

  • freehand

    Of course these blood thirsty murders of children and the genrally helpless are supported by many in the USA. The US Fundamentalists who do this are happy to kill be proxy in a land not yet “crippled” by a more civilized set of secular laws. Of course, we are only more civilized compared to Uganda, not for instance Denmark.

  • whheydt

    Re: Cats and rats.

    The Chartreux cats were specifically bred to be ratters and I dare say a Maine Coon cat would be pretty good at it as well. Rats are kind of large to be prey for most housecats. (I did know a Siamese once that hunted pretty good sized gophers, though.)

  • evodevo

    This is not a new thing – what IS new is the encouragement from the US fundies in the whole debacle. Many primitive societies (native American, african, SE Asian, etc.) tend to blame witchcraft for illness, crop failure, accidents, sexual dysfunction, etc. etc. and thereupon actively hunt among their neighbors/transients/someone from the next village over/etc. to find a scapegoat . Often they consult the local shaman to locate the source of the “curse”. This belief system is ingrained in the subculture already. All it needs is for a bunch of religious nuts to encourage such nonsense, and it spreads uncontrollably.

  • jnorris

    We should ask Ms Ophelia what makes one a witch, aside from the duck test? I suspect hearing supernatural voices no one else hears, like the voice of God, is one. Another maybe saying spells that change natural processes, like praying to God. Watch out lady, you just may be a witch!

  • mildlymagnificent

    We should ask Ms Ophelia what makes one a witch, aside from the duck test?

    What makes a witch? Apparently being an infant less than 2 years old – who cries a lot – is a pretty reliable indicator.

    In a country where malaria is common! Lots of witches there.

  • observer

    Jnorris, Ophelia is ftb blogger Ophelia Benson. She’s fighting against these persecutions, not supporting them.

  • zenlike

    A fan of this morally bankrupt ‘prophet’ is already commenting at Ophelia.

    Seems this ‘prophet’ has quite a following of brainless goons.

  • Ex Patriot

    Another group of brain dead zombies from at least the 3rd century BC although I would believe the peole living at that time had more brains than these do. I have hD AT MANY AS 3 Cats at one time in my house so I guess I am a Warlock then

  • birgerjohansson

    Technically, a call to execute “witches” might be a crime against humanity, and thus be subject to court action from abroad.

  • chilidog99

    That Helen Ukpabio looks like a witch to me.

  • lpetrich

    Helen Ukpabio is a woman, so use “she”.

    Although sorcery is often dismissed out of sand, if sorcery had real, physical effects, it could be a valuable technology. But it doesn’t, as far as anyone can tell, so it’s a pseudotechnology.

    Since blaming various misfortunes on malicious sorcery is a common one before the development of alternative theories for them, one has to ask what might be a psychological source for that. Why would that be one of the first things that we think of?

    It fits in well with the overdetection-of-agency theory of religion, that bad things happen because of some entity’s agency. In this case, it’s someone practicing sorcery. Overdetection of agency may also contribute to belief in conspiracy theories. Instead of a lot of small-scale decisions producing something or other, it is a few large-scale decisions that often involve some grand design, with the grand decision-makers not being public about their activities.

  • jnorris

    observer at # 13, I stand corrected and thank you.

  • Ichthyic

    Nigeria isn’t the only place burning witches is still going on; it’s made a resurgance in some places in the Pacific as well.

    recent example from New Guinea:

  • jamesr54

    We stooped this murderess from coming back to the US last year.


    She has an affiliate church in Houston TX. We must keep up our fight against

    such ignorance. It does work. .visit Ophelia’s link and follow the link to voice your