NIGERIAN atheist, Leo Igwe – a regular contributor to the Freethinker – was attacked this week by a mob of Christians at a conference he staged to discuss Child Rights and Witchcraft.
According to this report, Igwe had his glasses smashed and his bag, phone and camera stolen by the mob, numbering between 150 and 200, who were alternately singing and aggressively disrupting the conference in Calabar. After an hour and a half, the police turned up and dispersed the mob. One person was arrested.
Leo had recently returned to Nigeria from London where he attended a British Humanist Association day conference and other international humanist events held at Conway Hall over the space of a week, including the world’s first international conference on “Untouchability”, where he was invited to speak on the problem of caste discrimination in Nigeria. Whilst in London he also spoke to the BBC on the problems faced in Nigeria due to religious superstition.
Helen Ukpabio and her church, the Liberty Foundation Gospel Ministries, have run a campaign of terror against children and those committed to fighting for their rights, of which Friday’s raid was only the latest development.
The conference had been organised by the Nigerian Humanist Movement and the UK charity Stepping Stones Nigeria in response to the widespread abandonment, torture and killing of children in Akwa Ibom and Cross River State due to the belief in child “witches”.
As the conference began at around 10.30am, the religious protesters dressed in orange raided the venue and began protesting loudly.
Speaking after the event Leo said:
The conference was a peaceful meeting for people to openly debate what could be done to prevent the abuse of child rights linked to the belief in witchcraft. This attack by Helen Ukpabio’s supporters once again highlights the depravity of this so-called â€˜woman of God;. Such false prophets should be immediately arrested and prosecuted under the child rights act.
A child under two years of age that cries at night and deteriorates in health is an agent of Satan.
Josh Kutchinsky, a Trustee of the British Humanist Association, said:
Leo is a dear friend. He is knowledgeable, wise and courageous. I know that he is outraged by the damage done by superstition and irrational religiosity to the potential for development in Nigeria. One of his principal methods he uses to combat these problems is to write well-crafted and cogent articles. These have been published in national media and have gained considerable attention. His other methods are to organise conferences and to visit others in support of them as individuals or their organisations. He is working with Amnesty International and Stepping Stones Nigera. He is the IHEU representative in West Africa and a representative on the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights.
His intervention in individual cases of injustice, no doubt involve some personal risk. He and his fellow Nigerian Humanists have been awarded the Rainbow Humanist Award by Nordic Rainbow Humanists for their risky public support of LGBT rights in Nigeria.
Speaking from Stepping Stones Nigeria’s office in UK, the charity’s Programme Director, Gary Foxcroft, said:
The prevalence of the belief in child witchcraft in South-Eastern Nigeria can be linked to the books, movies and teachings of Helen Ukpabio. She has made a great deal of money by promoting this superstitious belief and seems willing to do anything to protect her interests. We call upon the Nigerian Federal Government and the Inspector General of Police to act urgently to prevent Helen causing any further embarrassment to Nigeria’s reputation.