Witchcraft related abuse is a very serious problem in African migrant communities in the UK. There is documented evidence that these abuses are linked to activities of African pastors and African initiated churches. Unfortunately efforts to address this problem are bogged down by concerns over racism, minority rights and abuse of religious liberty. We should allow such concerns to distract us from addressing this problem.
Vulnerable members of the African migrant communities in the UK particularly children are at risk. They are often tortured and murdered by relatives who accused them of witchcraft. Many of such horrific treatments in the name of witchcraft go unreported because victims are often defenseless infants and the abuses take place in the name of religion, particularly pentecostal Christianity. Pentecostal churches are spreading rapidly across the African migrant communities in the West.
These churches are prosecuting a new wave of witch hunting because pentecostalism thrives on literal interpretation of the Bible and the African pentecostalists believe that witches should be suffered to death as written in the book of Exodus (22:18).
These pentecostal pastors conduct healing and deliverance services where persons who are branded witches or possessed are subjected to inhumane and degrading treatment in the name of exorcism. Even in cases where these so called men or women of god may not directly engage in these abuses, they are still complicity to the crimes because their witchcraft preachings, healing and deliverance sermons incite violence, hatred and abuse of vulnerable members of the population.
So what is going on in the African migrant communities is a very complex phenomenon. Witchcraft related abuse in these places is difficult to track, tackle and address. Tackling this issue is in fact more challenging because many of these churches exist and operate freely in Africa, in places like Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, and Congo DRC where their witch hunting activities are seen as forms of spiritual and social service, and the governments are too weak to sanction them.
But this is not the case with the UK, is it? So one effective way we can use to address this problem is by sanctioning witch hunting pastors and churches.
It is important to monitor sermons, prayer points and requests, and gospel ministrations in these churches that already exist and operate in African migrant communities to ensure that they are not pretexts to incite witchcraft branding and witch persecution. Also, as part of the measures to tackle witchcraft related abuse in African and black communities, we can stop witch hunting African pastors from coming to worsen the situation by spreading their hateful messages in churches or branches of their churches in the West.
This should not be interpreted as racism or denying these pastors their rights to freedom of religion, movement or association. No, not at all. It is rather a way to break through the silent wall of witchcraft related abuse of children in these faith communities.
A country such as the UK must make it categorically clear that they are opposed to the activities of those pastors, prophets, bishops, medicine men or women who are fuelling, aiding and abetting witchcraft related abuse.
Since governments of countries where these pastors operate cannot stop or sanction them, the government of the UK can do so. Can’t it? Yes the UK authorities can send a very strong message to the churches and their affiliates in the country and to other witch hunting churches and pastors in Africa: Your witch hunting gospel, deliverance and healing services are not welcomed here.
This should be the case with Pastor D.K. Olukoya, the general overseer of the Mountain of Fire and Miracle Ministries worldwide. Pastor Olukoya is ministering at the 2016, ‘Deliverance, Prayerquake and Anointing Service’ to be held in London on September 16 2016.
The program will feature healing, salvation, deliverance and yoke breaking. Pastor Olukoya is a witch-hunting pastor who has devoted his ministry to destroying the ‘ministry of witchcraft’. One of his widely known books is Overpowering Witchcraft. This book, which was published in 1999, is another manual for witch finding and destruction because it contains the ‘secrets of the power over witchcraft’ and some ‘tips’ for those experiencing witchcraft attacks. The book contains sections that spell out how to disgrace the ministry of witchcraft and how to overpower the witches in our households. In fact the book’s cover has an illustration of the violent way that a witch should be treated or destroyed.
As one should expect, branches of Olukoya’s church, the Mountain of Fire and Miracle Ministries (MFM) have, in line with the injunction of their general overseer, instituted prayer points to ‘disgrace and overpower the ministry of witchcraft’.
A branch of MFM in the UK has as part of its prayer points that: “Every plantation of witchcraft in my family? What are you waiting for? DIE IN JESUS NAME. Every pattern of household witchcraft in my family, I BURY YOU TODAY, IN THE NAME OF JESUS” (Emphasis mine). The MFM branch in Hackney has a program to deal with ‘polygamous witchcraft’ and states that women in polygamous witchcraft used to be in ‘deep trouble and in darkness’.
But no branch of MFM captures the church’s anti witchcraft program in a more violent language than the branch in Houston, in the United States. The church has devoted its prayer points to: ‘Overturning the Seat of Household Witchcraft’, ‘Destroying Witchcraft Cauldron’, ‘Power against witchcraft burials’, ‘Victory by power over witchcraft verdict’, Destroying the traveling routes of witchcraft’, ‘Dismantling the communication systems of witchcraft’, ‘Breaking down the transportation of witchcraft’, ‘Destroying the altars of witchcraft’, Breaking witchcraft curses’, ‘Destroying the covens of witchcraft’, Destroying the hold of marine witchcraft’, ‘Vomiting the food of witchcraft’, ‘Destroying the infirmity of Witchcraft’, ‘Plucking out the eyes of Witchcraft’, ‘Dismantling witchcraft Embargo on Finances’, ‘Destroying the throne of witchcraft’.
These are not innocuous prayer requests against spiritual problems as some may think but a call to action against ‘witches’ in the families and communities. They are prescriptions of how to treat persons who embody witchcraft, marine and evil spirits.
Churches and pastors that sanction and sanctify witch hunting should be called to order and be made to understand how potentially harmful, dangerous and destructive their messages are. The UK authorities should not turn a blind eye on these witch hunting pastors and their church activities particularly with the problem of witchcraft related abuse in the African migrant communities.
This MFM program on September 16 should be an opportunity for the UK government to show its commitment to tackling witchcraft branding and other faith based abuses in the African migrant communities. The UK authorities should stop this witch-hunting pastor from coming to preach at the proposed event in London. They should use this event to send a strong message to Olukoya and to Mountain Fire and Miracle Ministries Worldwide, as well as to other witch hunting pastors and churches in Africa and in African migrant communities: Stop the witch-hunts or we will stop you.
Leo Igwe is a human rights activist and the founder of the Nigerian Humanist Movement. He was the Western and Southern African representative to IHEU, the International Humanist and Ethical Union. He can be reached by email HERE.
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.