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Leo Igwe: How Helen Ukpabio’s Freedom from Witchcraft Attacks Sermons Fuel Violence [MUST READ]

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Helen Ukpabio‘s upcoming Freedom from Witchcraft Attacks crusades is disturbing for so many reasons. First, the program reinforces witchcraft beliefs and incites hatred and violence against supposed witches. From May 8th through 12th, this self-acclaimed evangelist, notorious for witch hunting will be ministering at her church event in Calabar, Cross River State.

Many parts of the country have been grappling with the problem of witchcraft accusations and witch persecution of children and adults. Recently, a couple accused and subsequently murdered their daughter in Adamawa state. There have been reports of killings and abuses linked to witchcraft beliefs in Benue, Bauchi, Kano, Plateau, and Cross River State.

To end violations and abuses linked to witchcraft beliefs, Nigerians need to rally against witch hunters and witch-hunting events. Nigerian people need programs that weaken, not reinforce, superstitious, and fictitious claims of witchcraft and occult harm. Nigerians need events that awaken them from their intellectual slumber; events that would make them realize that witchcraft is a myth, not a reality, some fiction not a fact.

Nigerians need activities that dispel witchcraft fears and anxieties; programs that loosen the grip of witchcraft suspicions on their minds. Unfortunately, Ukpabio’s Freedom from Witchcraft Attacks strengthens this primitive belief and invests this mystical notion with force, motivating witchcraft suspecters to accuse and abuse.

Ukpabio makes people believe that witchcraft attacks are real; and that these occult schemes happen. Her church links lack of happiness, ill health, and poverty to witchcraft attacks, and invites those suffering ‘witchcraft attacks’ to come and be freed. Her events are advertised as programs that heal, cure, exorcise, and neutralize witchcraft attacks.

Ukpabio reinforces the notion that covens exist and are places and spaces where witchcraft attacks and other forms of occult harm are planned, hatched, and executed. Hence her poster states that the covens would be in trouble, and witches would be on the run. On the run?

More worrisome is the fact that the event incites hatred and violence against alleged witches. Alleged witches are not spiritual entities but other human beings, family, and community members. Alleged witches are often vulnerable members of the population mainly women, children, and people living with disabilities. Believed or made to believe to be perpetrators of harm and misfortune in families and communities, alleged witches are hated and treated without compassion.

Due to the witch hunting gospel of the likes of Ukpabio and her church, people attack, banish, torture, and persecute alleged witches blaming them for their misfortunes including death, illness, accidents, and lack of progress. To stop witch persecution, witchcraft-reinforcing activities such as Ukpabio’s Freedom from Witchcraft Attacks event must stop or must be stopped. Ukpabio and her so-called Liberty Gospel church must be held to account. They must be brought to justice.

One cannot claim to be combating a disease and at the same allowing people to openly and publicly spread the disease or reinfect the society. Witchcraft is a social disease. And the disease persists because the government and the public have refused to tackle those spreading the disease. People have largely ignored and condoned witchcraft-reinforcing and witch-hunting events.

In particular, Ukpabio’s program spread the disease of witch hunting in Cross River. This disease has taken a heavy toll on the people and society in Cross River, destroying many family and community relationships. Thousands of children and adults in the state suspected to be witches have been abandoned or lynched and the surrounding. Witch hunting persists in the state because the government and the public in Cross River have turned a blind eye to the witchcraft hunting programs of Ukpabio and her church.

As a matter of urgency, multi-level actions and responses are needed to rein in Nigeria’s most notorious witch hunter and her church.

The government should disallow church events and billboards that spread witchcraft fears and incite hatred and violence against alleged witches. They should penalize organizers of such events and dismantle billboards that sanctify ‘witchcraft attacks’ and witch hunting.

The government should not be deceived or misled to think that Ukpabio’s event is within the bounds of freedom of religion or belief. It is not. It is rather a violation of freedom of religion or belief. Ukpabio is not a Wiccan or a practitioner of nature worship whose members identify as “witches”.

More importantly, witchcraft accusation is against the law in Cross River and in Nigeria. It is an offense against the state to impute witchcraft or witchcraft attacks. Ukpabio’s event is an exercise in criminality. It nudges people to go and commit crimes, to accuse, banish, and persecute alleged witches. The program advertises or stages an event on witchcraft accusations.

The state should not permit this criminal event to hold. The people of Cross State should take action because they are the sufferers of the awful consequences of Ukpabio’s witch-hunting ministry. They should send a clear message to Ukpabio and her church, that their message of fear, hatred, and violence has no place in Cross River. Cross Riverians should use all lawful means to protest and oppose the witch-hunting activities of Ukpabio and her church.

Human rights groups, civil society organizations, schools, and community leaders should take some action against Ukpabio, the Liberty Gospel church, and other witch-hunting pastors and churches in the state.

Leo Igwe directs the Advocacy for Alleged Witches, which campaigns to end witch-hunting in Africa by 2030. He can be reached by email HERE

The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.

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