In the name of Jesus the gentle 0

 From the Telegraph:

Children from Crarn accused of being witches and wizards, protesting outside the Governor's headquarters.

Children from Crarn accused of being witches and wizards, protesting outside the Governor’s headquarters. Photo: Mags Gavan, Redrebel Films

Ostracised, vulnerable and frightened, she wandered the streets in south-eastern Nigeria, sleeping rough, struggling to stay alive.

Mary [five years old] was found by a British charity worker and today lives at a refuge in Akwa Ibom province with 150 other children who have been branded witches, blamed for all their family’s woes, and abandoned. Before being pushed out of their homes many were beaten or slashed with knives, thrown onto fires, or had acid poured over them as a punishment or in an attempt to make them "confess" to being possessed. In one horrific case, a young girl called Uma had a three-inch nail driven into her skull.

Yet Mary and the others at the shelter are the lucky ones for they, at least, are alive. Many of those branded "child-witches" are murdered – hacked to death with machetes, poisoned, drowned, or buried alive in an attempt to drive Satan out of their soul.

The devil’s children are "identified" by powerful religious leaders at extremist churches where Christianity and traditional beliefs have combined to produce a deep-rooted belief in, and fear of, witchcraft. The priests spread the message that child-witches bring destruction, disease and death to their families. And they say that, once possessed, children can cast spells and contaminate others.

The religious leaders offer help to the families whose children are named as witches, but at a price. The churches run exorcism, or "deliverance", evenings where the pastors attempt to drive out the evil spirits. Only they have the power to cleanse the child of evil spirits, they say. The exorcism costs the families up to a year’s income.

During the "deliverance" ceremonies, the children are shaken violently, dragged around the room and have potions poured into their eyes. The children look terrified. The parents look on, praying that the child will be cleansed. If the ritual fails, they know their children will have to be sent away, or killed. Many are held in churches, often on chains, and deprived of food until they "confess" to being a witch.

The ceremonies are highly lucrative for the spiritual leaders many of whom enjoy a lifestyle of large homes, expensive cars and designer clothes.

Ten years ago there were few cases of children stigmatised by witchcraft. But since then the numbers have grown at an alarming rate and have reached an estimated 15,000 in Akwa Ibom state alone.

Some Nigerians blame the increase on one of the country’s wealthiest and most influential evangelical preachers. Helen Ukpabio, a self-styled prophetess of the 150-branch Liberty Gospel Church, made a film, widely distributed, called End of the Wicked. It tells, in graphic detail, how children become possessed and shows them being inducted into covens, eating human flesh and bringing chaos and death to their families and communities.

Mrs Ukpabio, a mother of three, also wrote a popular book which tells parents how to identify a witch. For children under two years old, she says, the key signs of a servant of Satan are crying and screaming in the night, high fever and worsening health – symptoms that can be found among many children in an impoverished region with poor health care.

 The preacher says that her work is true to the Bible and is a means of spreading God’s word. "Witchcraft is a problem all over Nigeria and someone with a gift like me can never hurt anybody," she says. "Every Nigerian wants to watch my movies." She denies that her teachings and films could encourage child abuse.

Posted under Christianity, Commentary by Jillian Becker on Monday, November 10, 2008

Tagged with , , , , ,

This post has 0 comments.

Permalink