You’ve probably heard that there’s an especially nefarious effect of some Christian sects in Africa: they have combined earlier superstitions with modern ones, and believe that some of their members are witches. Children are often singled out as being possessed, andm in a misguided attempt at “exorcism,” are beaten, tortured, and even killed. Watch this short but horrific BBC video of how a child was tortured and killed—in LONDON—after accusations of “Kindoke,” or witchcraft.
This case is not unique in the UK: see here (from The Ontario Consultants for Religious Tolerance) for more information. Notice the statement reported by the BBC:
‘Detective Superintendent Chris Bourlet, of the Metropolitan Police leads Project Violet. a program to prevent religiously-motivated child abuse. Bourlet said: “the aim will be prevention, working with churches and communities – not to challenge their beliefs but to raise their awareness of child abuse.” A group of about five officers will gather intelligence on the problem and try and persuade churches to follow child protection procedures.’
“Not to challenge their beliefs”? Really? You shouldn’t tell them that children aren’t witches? That is, after all, the truth? This is the sort of accommodationism that leads to horrible consequences for peoples’ lives.” Now I’m not sure whether telling them that their beliefs are wrong will help much, either, but maybe combining that with the assertion that if any child is so much as touched for being accused of witchcraft, there will be severe and immediate consequences. Are we really supposed to “respect” those beliefs?
The practice is, of course, far more widespread in west Africa, where it wasn’t specifically regulated until recently. And it’s still going on, as the video above testified. See also this BBC report on the practice in the Congo, which, though accusing a child of witchcraft has been made illegal, still leads to child abuse and expulsion from the home:
In 2010, Unicef reported 20,000 children accused of witchcraft were living on the streets of DR Congo’s capital Kinshasa.
One of the most nefarious of the witch hungers is Helen Ukpabio, a Nigerian Christian “witch hunter”, and founder of Liberty Foundation Gospel Ministries who was profiled in 2010 in The New York Times (see also Hemant Mehta’s post on The Friendly Atheist) Her organization makes films like “The End of the Wicked” (from which this clip is taken):
As the NYT notes,
Ms. Ukpabio’s critics say her teachings have contributed to the torture or abandonment of thousands of Nigerian children — including infants and toddlers — suspected of being witches and warlocks.. . .
Those disturbed by the needless immiseration of innocent children should beware. “Saving Africa’s Witch Children” follows Gary Foxcroft, founder of the charity Stepping Stones Nigeria, as he travels the rural state of Akwa Ibom, rescuing children abused during horrific “exorcisms” — splashed with acid, buried alive, dipped in fire — or abandoned roadside, cast out of their villages because some itinerant preacher called them possessed.
Their fellow villagers have often seen DVDs of “End of the Wicked,” Ms. Ukpabio’s bloody 1999 movie purporting to show how the devil captures children’s souls. And some have read her book “Unveiling the Mysteries of Witchcraft,” where she confidently writes that “if a child under the age of 2 screams in the night, cries and is always feverish with deteriorating health, he or she is a servant of Satan.”
Ukpabio of course denies that her preaching about possession and the need for exorcism cause any harm. Referring to an anti-witchcraft film, “Saving Africa’s witch children”, which documents the abuse:
She said the children’s gruesome scars and wounds, shown in the documentary, are not real — or perhaps they are real, “but there are many ways children can get maimed.” And if the injuries are the result of witchcraft accusations against the children, she said, those accusations could not have been made by Pentecostal Christian preachers, but by charlatans.
As if she doesn’t know what would follow from accusing children of being Satan’s minions and having the ability to cast spells on and kill others. Watch the clip above and see what kind of respond you think it would inspire!
This is what happens when you combine two superstitions, and empower the indigenous one with imported Christianity. Those who say they “don’t care what people believe so long as they don’t foist it on the public schools” must consider that “what people believe” leads to the deaths, torture, and explusion of innocent children. Compared to that, creationism is small potatoes.