Should Witch-Hunter Helen Ukpabio be Allowed to Visit America?

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  January 30, 2012 — 57 Comments

The United States has a strong ethic of not interfering with the internal affairs of religious organizations. The recent unanimous Supreme Court decision affirming the right of “ministerial exception” sent a clear signal that our government is limited in what in can demand or regulate. In America, religious institutions aren’t taxed, and our constitution enshrines a secular ethic that prevents one faith being raised up above any other. However, freedom of religion does not place clergy and religious leaders above the law, individuals have been imprisoned when their teachings have led to the abuse or deaths of others. Now, the question is if the United States should act to keep a religious leader accused of encouraging the abuse, and in some cases death, of children from entering our country. In March, Nigerian Christian leader Helen Ukpabio is planning a trip to the United States to engage in a “Marathon Deliverance” session in Texas. The International Humanist and Ethical Union claims that Ukpabio “uses her sermons, teachings and prophetic declarations to incite hatred, intolerance and persecution of alleged witches and wizards.”

“Ukpabio claims to be an ex-witch, initiated while she was a member of another local church, the Brotherhood of Cross and Star. She later founded the Liberty Gospel Church to fulfill her ‘anointed mission’ of delivering people from witchcraft attack. Ukpabio organizes deliverance sessions where she identifies and exorcizes people, mainly children, of witchcraft. Headquartered in Calabar in Southern Nigeria, the Liberty Gospel Church has grown to be a witch hunting church with branches in Nigeria and overseas.”

Ukpabio’s teachings were profiled in the documentary “Saving Africa’s Witch Children,” a ministry that includes a propaganda film, “End of the Wicked,” and a book entitled “Unveiling the Mysteries of Witchcraft,” materials that are taken very seriously by many Nigerians, and is claimed to have directly led to the torture and abuse of “witch” children. When confronted with these allegations by the New York Times during her last visit to America, Ukpabio claimed the film was mere fantasy, and that the accusations against her were fueled by racism.

“Do you thinkHarry Potteris real?” Ms. Ukpabio asked me angrily, in the lobby of the Holiday Inn Express where she was staying. “It is only because I am African,” she said, that people who understand that J. K. Rowling writes fiction would take literally Ms. Ukpabio’s filmic depictions of possessed children, gathering by moonlight to devour human flesh. [...]  Ms. Ukpabio argued that “Saving Africa’s Witch Children” exaggerates or invents the problem of child abandonment. Asked how she could be so sure, she said, “because I am an African!” In Africa, she said, “family ties are too strong to have a child on the street.”

Despite these claims of “exaggeration”, Nigeria has since outlawed accusing a child of witchcraft. A law challenged by Ukpabio, who tried to sue the Akwa Ibom state government, local police, and relief charities for damages and an exemption from the law. Failing in that initiative, her followers have used the press to attack the organizations that seek to help children accused of witchcraft. As the New York Times so aptly puts it: “In the name of religious freedom, Ms. Ukpabio seeks a gag order on anyone who disagrees with her.” Now she seeks to return to America again, to no doubt rake in donations from her American followers and admirers.

I’ve written about Ukpabio several times at this blog, a prominent figure in a gruesome business of churches naming and “curing” witchcraft in children. A phenomenon that Western churches have much to answer for. This time, Ukpabio’s visit is seeming to inspire some coordinated opposition. Humanitarian activist Michael Mungai at HuffPo says there should be protests, which are now being organized by Staise Gonzalez in Houston against Ukpabio’s visit.

Her critics, such as Staise Gonzalez, say that once children are identified as witches, especially in areas where people believe in sorcery, they are tortured and sometimes killed. “These suspected witches have been treated in brutal and inhumane ways,” says Gonzalez, who is organizing 12 days of protest to correspond with Ukpabio’s appearance, scheduled from March 14 to March 25. “Abandoned, isolated and otherwise ostracized from the community, taken to the forest and slaughtered, disgraced publicly, bathed in acid, poisoned, buried alive, chained and tortured in churches in order to extract confession, and murdered,” she says.

A Facebook page, Stand Against Helen Ukpabio, has also been created. Meanwhile, back in Nigeria, children are still being branded as witches, and a judicial commission on witchcraft accusations in Nigeria is demanding that she appear and testify before it. A warrant for her arrest may be issued if she ignores those summons. Considering the circumstances, and the mountain of evidence that Ukpabio is engaged the naming of child witches, and her defiant stance to any and all accusations of wrongdoing, is it in the best interests of our State Department to allow her a visa? A petition on Change.org argues that Ukpabio should be denied entry.

“US Department of State needs to be urged to do the right thing and deny Helen Ukpabio’s entry into the United States on grounds of her human rights violations.”

PZ Myers adds that “this evil, criminal woman ought to be met at the airport and turned right around, if not sent off to trial for crimes against humanity.” Will the State Department acknowledge Ukpabio’s witch-hunting as a crime against humanity and deny her entry? I can only imagine that a concerted effort to bring the matter to their attention may have some effect. I will try to contact them to see if they have an official stance or response to the charges against Ukpabio.

Those who would accuse children of witchcraft have no place in our society, and should not be feted or encouraged by welcoming them to our shores. The cures and blessings peddled by Ukpabio, and those like her, should face intense scrutiny, and not allowed the status of an United States victory lap.  For those who want to help the witch-children of Nigeria, Stepping Stones Nigeria is a good place to start.

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Jason Pitzl-Waters

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  • http://www.facebook.com/EdAHubbard Ed Hubbard

    This is a very serious issue that we have dealt with for years, and while we would love to ban her from the USA, we allow for a lot of obnoxious and wrong-headed people in. Somehow the Christians who are inviting her, and who are bringing her need to be shown how deadly she is. Not necessarily the leaders, but the followers who support her.

  • Baruch Dreamstalker

    Thanks for the Change(dot)org link.

  • http://lifencompass.com Scott @ Lifencompass

    This is disgusting.

    • http://profiles.google.com/vanye111 Jason Hatter

      How is Jason bringing up this horrific woman’s pending visit a disgusting thing?

      • http://lifencompass.com Scott @ Lifencompass

        …The witch hunter.

      • http://lifencompass.com Scott @ Lifencompass

        Sorry I assumed my support for the anti-witchh hunter was clear by proximity to craft and website, etc etc etc.

        “Never assume…” (Benny Hill)

        Yes.

        • http://profiles.google.com/vanye111 Jason Hatter

          given that we are on a multi-religious blog site, and the subject of the Blog in question IS “Should Witch-Hunter Helen Ukpabio be Allowed to Visit America?” , your context was not exactly clear. Thank you :)

  • Biddy Early

    “Hate speech is, outside the law, any communication that disparages a person or a group on the basis of some characteristic such as race, color, ethnicity, gender, disability, sexual orientation, nationality, religion, or other characteristic.[1][2]

    In law, hate speech is any speech, gesture or conduct, writing, or display which is forbidden because it may incite violence or prejudicial action against or by a protected individual or group, or because it disparages or intimidates a protected individual or group. The law may identify a protected individual or a protected group by race, gender, ethnicity, disability[3], nationality, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity,[4] or other characteristic.

    • Baruch Dreamstalker

      What are these footnotes you indicate? And to what jurisdiction are you referring?

      • Anonymous

        Biddy seems to have lifted this from the Wikipedia entry ‘Hate Speech.’

        • Baruch Dreamstalker

          Thanks! I checked that; it’s a general description of hate speech, whose regulation differs in different jurisdictions.

          Biddy, when you cite something like this it’s good internet manners to indicate where you got it.

    • Charles Cosimano

      Under US law, hate speech is protected unless it violates other provisions of law and the bar for those is very very high. And Religious speech is accorded a protection just under that of political speech.

  • http://kauko-niskala.blogspot.com Kauko

    What I find particularly disgusting (obviously aside from her responsibility in the abuse and murder of children) is her attempt to hide behind accusations of racism toward all the people who oppose her. There’s enough actual racism and general bigotry in the world and it makes it just that much harder for people fighting the real thing to do so when people like Ukpabio use it as an excuse to not have to answer for her actions.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=585826544 Adam Birch

    She wouldn’t have to hunt me. Just pop round for a frank, human-to-human discussion. I might even rustle up a pot of tea. However, if she wanted to deliver anything, she’d be better off bringing a pizza.

  • http://egregores.blogspot.com Apuleius Platonicus

    Many people are eager to denounce Helen Ukpabio. But how many people are willing to defend African Traditional Religion? Secularists, atheists and “humanists” (wrongly so called) actually claim that traditional religions are worse than Christianity because they are more thoroughly imbued with magical thinking (which to them is the root of all evil).

    People like the The International Humanist and Ethical Union are anti-Pagan to the core. They do, in fact, take a racist position, according to which the problem with Ukpabio’s brand of Christianity is that it has become infected with African “superstitions”. As if Christians ever needed any outside inspiration to engage in Witch hunting!

    The form of Christianity preached by Helen Ukpabio is a seamless continuation of a new form of Christianity whose roots are not in the ancient past of Darkest Africa, but rather in the 20th century, and in Sunny Los Angeles. And that form of Christianity (Pentecostalism), in turn, has its roots solidly planted in Puritanism and Methodism, both of which originated in Jolly Old England.

    Pagans have to be careful with this issue. Many of those who are raising their voices most loudly against Ukpabio are no friends of ours either. Our natural allies are those tens of millions of Africans who continue to practice their ancient traditional religions despite centuries of spiritual aggression by the Christians and Muslims. And it is these Africans who are also the real target of Ukpabio. Her “mission” is clear: to eradicate all non-Christian spiritual beliefs and practices from Africa. In opposing her we cannot make common cause with those, like The International Humanist and Ethical Union, who share that goal with her!

  • Merofled Ing

    This woman is a terrorist.’Terrorism’ in Webster’s online dictionary: the systematic use of terror especially as a means of coercion.
    Here: the coercion of children or of their parents to behave in certain ways, not to be accused of witchcraft. Being “wayward” in school?? That needs an exorcism?? And what is that last scene?

    That film is filth. (And it needs a trigger warning.)

    Otherwise we might shrug it off, laugh at the poster “Come and receive your freedom FROM the Lord”??? Reading comprehension fail on my part or ambiguous preposition? But with people taking her seriously anywhere and either murdering or abandoning or ‘exorcising’ children the idea that Ms. Ukpabio can tour the country, avoid being arrested at home, and rake in donations is awful.

    At least make sure no one takes their kids near her. Or her films. (And I wouldn’t accept a pizza from her either.)

    • Veracity

      Merofled Ing, it’s not you, it’s the grammar. At best, it’s an ambiguous preposition. I read it exactly the same way you did, and laughed until I realized it could be read another way. Apparently whoever printed this poster has a one-track mind on many issues, including grammar.

      I tried to get through the film since I believe in not condeming something I have not personally put my eyes on, but I couldn’t make it past 2 minutes. It would be laughable if not for the horrifying fact that people watch it and believe it.

      Scare films like this are popular in some areas of Christianity – and not just Pentecostal I grew up in a Baptist church and I clearly remember being 8 years old and watching a film on a “special” Sunday night service. The big bad satanic enemy back then was the Soviet Union (didn’t you know every one of them was a devout satanist???) and the film showed the overrunning the US and forcing everyone to deny Christ. That’s bad enough, but what I remember in the most detail was a child the same age I was being told at the point of a sword to spit on a picture of Christ and deny the faith or be beheaded. The child, tears in his eyes, refused, and the soldier promptly beheaded him. The image of that child’s head rolling across the ground haunts me nearly 40 years later. Why anyone thought that was an appropriate film for ANYONE, must less with children present in the audience, is still beyond me.

      This film is more of the same, just as useless, but just as scary because it is effective on a certain audience. The thought of anyone being INSPIRED by this… as in inspired to support this woman’s ‘ministry’ – all I can do is shake my head in disbelief, and sign that petition.

      • Merofled Ing

        The film you describe sounds absolutely awful! Of course it is haunting, frightening and remains so. The idea that anyone would expose children to this – that is just criminal behavior.

        And to think that the current variety of the kind of people who deem such films appropriate for children as young as eight feel the need to ‘screen’ wicca literature brought by Pagan or Wicca mums before the books can go to the school library or be handed out to teens …

        Love and thoughts must be very very confusing to them.

  • A.C. Fisher Aldag

    I don’t know if these online petition sites are worth beans, but here is one protesting this woman’s entry into the USA. http://www.change.org/petitions/the-president-of-the-united-states-deny-entry-to-the-usa-for-helen-ukpabio

  • Kilmrnock

    This woman is just plain evil , on general principle she should NOT be allowed in this country.The govt .should also look into whatever church here that would support and endorse what she does . Picking on and doing harm to dispaced children is unconscienable and evil in the first degree.If our State Department has reasonable or otherwise grounds to prevent her and those like her from entering the US , her/their visa should be denied.This preacher,Apostle Helen,tortures , abuses , and in some cases has killed ” witchcraft” children .A Christian church condones this stuff?Am i correct in saying this is an offshoot from an American church?If so , i believe we need to look at the missionary practices of American churches in Africa , that would allow /encourage this kind of hainous behavior . This is just plain wrong /evil in anyones book. Someone has to be held accountable for this , up to and including Apostle Helen.She and those like her need to be treated as war criminals ,and any church that sponsors/ endorces her and those like her needs to be dealt w/ accordingly. Don’t thes whackos call this stuff spiritual warfare?.We as people of earth cannot tolarate this kind of behavior .Sorry i rambled on a bit, this kind of stuff pisses me off, majorly . First off that it can happen in the first place and secondly that an American church would want this EVIL bitch to come here. This is just another case of abject evil being done in the Christian gods name …………i would think Christians would be upset about this , wouldn’t you? , not inviting this evil, so called apostle here. Kilm

  • http://www.socialsecuritylawattorney.com Santa Monica Attorney

    The separation of Church and State shall be inviolable.

  • http://www.paganawareness.net.au Gavin Andrew

    Not only should ‘Lady Apostle’ Helen Ukpabio be allowed to enter the Unites States, she ought to be given free accommodation and meals, courtesy of the Federal Government. For 30 years or so.

    Perhaps more importantly, so should any U.S residents who raise funds on her behalf, knowing the uses to which that money is put.

    “Child abuse” doesn’t even begin to cover the crimes committed by this woman and her supporters. Instead of signing petitions etc. to keep her out, the pagan community might do better to urge a Department of Justice investigation into the money-trail running from U.S. churches and organizations to the Liberty Gospel Church in Nigeria, and whether any of that money is used to buy acid, which is reportedly thrown on children accused of being witches as part of “deliverance” sessions.

  • Hotstreak12

    I think that there comes a point where you have to tell someone to sit down and shut up because they no longer have the right to voice there opinions.

  • guest

    What’s the problem? If she breaks a law they she can be charged. If she harms someone or commits hate speech, charge her. But otherwise her religion is just as valid as any other. Yes the world would be a better place without all this hocus pocus nonsense. Hey Muslims and Christians why not set an example and cease your hocus pocus. Why can’t you see that she is no nuttier than you are?

    The religious books treat sorcery and the devil as a real thing. Are you afraid that they are real things? Are you able to reject the nonsense of sorcery and an actual devil, but not God?

    Her claim that she can exorcise the witch curse is just as ridiculous as Christian or Muslim claims of a heaven or hell. “You will burn in hell for eternity for…”: homosexuality, fornication, birth control… Does this sound familiar? Do you think this isn’t harmful? What about the pope telling a country with 30% aids not to use condoms? This isn’t harmful?

    In 2012, I can’t believe that the millions of ignorant “sheep” of all the major religions still believe that they are good and intelligent people. Think for yourself. Be good the way you freely think you should be good. Reject the hate of the obsolete religious texts.

    The most harmful things are governments, societies, churches and people not being humanist.

    It’s so frustrating! I know that most religious people are good and intelligent, but…

    • Bara Mortath

      You realise that this a pagan blog right, not a christian or muslim one.

      • Captain Canada aka guest

        i was linked here and left a comment as a reader, obviously an atheist one. my comments apply to: her, her followers, other people reading this article and comments, and more.

        it’s interesting that even among pagans, who i consider harmless mostly because they are harmless or keep their delusions to themselves and in small groups, there is also intolerance. so you who feel persecuted would persecute another? break the cycle.

        besides, to me there’s a pretty blurry line between her practices and those of a witch. these children aren’t really self identified witches, they are victims of witchcraft; they’re cursed. and Ukpabio is driving out that curse, or so she says. so to me she is as witchy as any other witch. so it sounds like you have a problem with one of your own. don’t you have some kind of guild to sort this out?

        • Baruch Dreamstalker

          “[...D]on’t you have some kind of guild to sort this out?”

          In a word, no. There is no Pagan institution with that kind of authority. Stipulating your notion that Ukpabio is a witch herself (which actually evokes my skepticism) there’s no Wizengamot to drag her before.

        • http://kauko-niskala.blogspot.com Kauko

          There’s so much ignorance in your comment I wouldn’t even know where to start. What has people upset is that Ukpabio’s ministry is directly responsible for the horrible abuse and murder of children. That’s what people are upset about. At what point was that not clear to you?

        • http://quakerpagan.org/ Cat C-B

          It’s not her religion we object to. It’s her incitement to violence against others.

          It is particularly offensive that she justifies that violence through her hateful disparagement of my own religion–Witchcraft. But the thing that should see her barred from entry into the U.S. is her history of inciting violence against children.

          If you think it constitutes persecution to seek to bar someone with blood on her hands from a fundraising tour of the U.S, conducted with the intention of seeking more deaths, then I’m not sure where you’ve misplaced your logic.

          Your ignorance of Paganism and Wicca are understandable. Your unwillingness to acknowledge that targeting children for religiously-motivated violence is more problematic than denying someone a visa is not.

          • Captain Canada aka guest

            Come on, I thought the guild comment was funny.

            I’m completely against her harming children, but i think you have to accept that she probably means well. She’s got some deluded ideas about reality, and she thinks there is some spirt or something possessing these child witches that she can drive out. That or she knows she’s an opportunistic fake.

            I still can’t see a difference between her and a Falwell or Pat Roberts other than perhaps she causes physical harm directly and they don’t. As for blood on hands: Pope, George Bush, Netanyahu, Rumsfeld… and Pat Roberts, Jerry Falwell and others have gay blood on their hands… again deluded and perhaps meaning well. And all these people come and go from the US as they please.

            It’s all just evil in the name of the supernatural to me.

            Peace Pagans.

          • Anonymous

            Your guild remark was not the least funny, and this is far too serious a topic for snarky attempts at humor. And yes those others may indeed have blood on their hands – but we can’t fix everything at once. Maybe we can keep this evildoer out of the country.

  • Charles Cosimano

    Ok, let’s get real here. Hate speech is not a crime under US Law. In fact everything she teaches, as teaching, is probably protected speech. So, if she gets in, there is likely no legal recourse against her, any more than there is legal recourse against the Westboro Baptist Church.

    So, as Vladimir Illych asked, “What is to be done?”

    The answer is simple. Everywhere she speaks, let a flash mob of demonstrators appear without warning, overwhelming her and her supporters, shouting her down and waving pentagrams in their faces. When they realize that their prayers are useless and she has no power other than that which produces hot air, let her flee in defeat and disgrace.

    Now if someone were to be creative enough to goad her into it, it would be fun if she were to try to sue someone in the US in a Nigerian court only to learn that the SPEECH Act would prevent any judgement from being enforced here.

    You need to be creative in this.

    • Anonymous

      Hate Speech may be protected under the First Amendment except in cases of incitement, fighting words, defamation/slander. Criminal threatening, however, is a whole ‘nother ball of wax.

    • Verac1ty

      Creative is good, but the people who believe in her ministry – you won’t change their minds. One thing I am worried about is timing. With a possibles arrest pending in Africa, what happens if she is allowed into the US, then wants to claim asylum? But in essence, I don’t see allowing those who propogate torture and murder of children the privilege of entering the country, religious beliefs be damned.

  • http://www.facebook.com/bert72686 Bert III

    How is this even an issue? She says someone is a Witch, so? My wife is a Witch, so is my daughter, and many of my friends. I use Witchcraft myself when I need to.
    The real issue should be the way people look at Witchcraft. It is not what she is saying, but what people are doing to people, whether thay are Witches or not.

    • Darklyviolet

      You should be thankful that you live in a country where it’s unlikely that your wife or your daughter will ever be dragged kicking and screaming out of their house to spend days being tortured and beaten so that they will repent their ‘sins’.
      And your daughter is especially lucky that neither you or your wife would do something like that.

      It’s not the case in Nigeria where this woman has her church. The members of that church turn parents against their own children who are beaten and sometimes killed. Go back and actually read the article and you will find out what the ‘issue’ is.

  • Michelle Hesse

    hm, I cant find a listing in the Yellow pages for Liberty Gospel Church in Houston….. would like to know where to set up camp to protest….

  • Obsidia

    From an alleged victim of this kind of “witch hunt”–
    http://www.iheu.org/nigerian-witch-hunter-helen-ukpabio-bringing-gospel-hate-us

    Not sure if this is the Church, but it IS near Houston:

    Cornerstone Church
    1693 Highway 146 Byp
    Liberty, TX 77575
    (936) 336-2688

    • Obsidia

      From “Bartholemew’s Notes on Religion” blog:

      Ukpabio’s advert gives no address for the Liberty Gospel Church in Houston, although one of the phone numbers provided belongs to “Glorious Praise Ministries.” This church is led by Pastor Jonathan A. David (also known as Jonathan Agba), and Ukpabio was previously there in 2010.

      http://barthsnotes.com/2012/01/07/helen-ukpabio-returning-to-houston/

      GLORIOUS PRAISE MINISTRIES
      17211 Trace Glen Ln
      Houston, TX 77083

      Phone No.
      Cell: 713-530-2080
      Home: 713-370-2587
      E-mail: gloriouspraiseministry@yahoo.com

  • Kilmrnock

    Quest , being a nutjob is one thing ……….if that was all she was there wouldn’t be such problem .We have plenty of those here already. But Apostle Helen commits vicious crimes against children , including abuse , torture and murder.And even worse all this is done in the name of the Christian God to exorcise demons and cure them of witchcraft. Kilm

  • Lori F – MN

    If she has a warrant against her wouldn’t that give the US an obligation to send her back to Nigeria?

  • Obsidia

    It seems that what Ukpabio defines as “Witches” are people (usually children or women) who are “possessed” by “demons,” or even “mermaid spirits.” This says to me that she has been taught by Christian missionary types who define African traditional tribal and shamanistic religions as some kind of Devil Worship. This is the same as the old Christian missionaries decided about the Native Americans. It’s not really about powerful magical people. It’s more about vulnerable people who can be bullied, “exorcised,” and then (if they have not been killed or injured too badly) recruited as new Christian missionaries. It’s an old story, and it comes from a grave misunderstanding of tribal practices by those who would demonize them, out of fear, ignorance, or some kind of psychosis.

    BTW, the worship of Mami Wata (a Mermaid spirit) often materializes as a kind of “possession,” like Vodou, which was probably frightning to the Christian missionaries.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w5vg17qWM_Y

    http://pub47.bravenet.com/faq/show.php?catid=133&usernum=3951612168

  • Kilmrnock

    Quest, another point , there is alot of difference between what Apostle Helen does and what a pagan witch does . Witches donot abuse , torture and kill helpless, more than likely sick children . Our rules of conduct , for most witches , the Rede & or the rule of 3 , prevent that . Witches are a quite principled group , wouldn’t think of harming a child .This lunny woman is just plain evil , by anyones account.Pagans don’t do these kinds of things , she is definatly not one of ours . Kilm, ADF druid ,Sinnsreachd

    • Obsidia

      Well-said, Kilmrnock.

      Apostle Helen Ukpabio says she was initiated as a witch by the Brotherhood of the Cross and Star. This group is based on Christianity and in its leader (Olumba Olumba Obu) states that “God owns, rules and leads the Brotherhood, and our Lord Jesus Christ” is given charge.”

      (from the groups website at: http://www.ooo-bcs.org/

      She is simply saying that another Christian group is a witch group. There is no substance to this charge. Her definition of “witch” is very arbitrary, as it seems to be for most people who want to use it to demonize and/or oppress others.

  • river

    I’d give all my money to any Nigerian email scammer willing to take her down….

  • http://www.makeapact.org/ Carmel

    Stepping Stones Nigeria and their Nigerian partner organisations have launched a global campaign to Prevent Abuse of Children Today (PACT).

    Witchcraft is often seen as the source of problems within Nigerian society with vulnerable children being the group most at risk of witchcraft accusations. Children stigmatised as witches face abandonment by their families and communities, torture, public humiliation, disgrace and even murder.

    PACT aims to bring long-term positive social change to vulnerable Nigerian children, particularly those who’ve been accused of witchcraft, are at risk from traffickers or have been abused. I urge you to stand with us to Prevent Abuse of Children Today – please sign the PACT petition and see the website to find out more about how you can help: http://www.makeapact.org thank you.

    • http://egregores.blogspot.com Apuleius Platonicus

      Why should Pagans support an organization whose slogan is “Children Cannot Be Witches”?

  • http://egregores.blogspot.com Apuleius Platonicus

    “For those who want to help the witch-children of Nigeria, Stepping Stones Nigeria is a good place to start.”

    Stepping Stones has played a very problematic role in the “Child Witch” issue. The most serious problem is Stepping Stones’ demonization of African Traditional Religion. Stepping Stones claims that Witch hunting only happens when Christianity becomes tainted by African “superstitions”. Therefore, according to them, the solution is for Africa to become more Christian, and for traditional beliefs and practices to be eradicated.

    Also, in terms of tangible results, Stepping Stones has done very little (by their own admission) and the last I heard the charity has become embroiled in controversies of their own, including accusations of mishandling of funds. I don’t think they have anyone “on the ground” in Nigeria any more at all, and the charity no longer really exists except possibly on paper.

    Organizations that have done good work in terms of documenting the problem and providing the public with reliable information, while working with local people and various groups in Nigeria, include Save the Children, UNICEF, UNHCR, and Human Rights Watch.

    • http://www.makeapact.org/ Gary Foxcroft

      Dear Apuleius Platonicus,

      I just wanted to quickly set the record straight regarding the misguided comments that you have made above. Firstly, at no point has Stepping Stones Nigeria ever demonised African Traditional Religions. I’m completely perplexed at where you may have got this idea from. Also, at no point have we ever stated that “Witch hunting only happens when Christianity becomes tainted by African “superstitions”. Finally, as a secular child rights organization that works with and respects people and groups of all faiths, Stepping Stones Nigeria would certainly never state that “the solution is for Africa to become more Christian, and for traditional beliefs and practices to be eradicated”.

      I’m also unsure of where you feel we may have admitted that we “have done very little” and find this comment, like the majority of your others, to be deeply offensive and untrue. The controversies that we have been embroiled in mainly relate to a campaign of intimidation that has been launched upon us by the people whose power our work seeks to challenge in Nigeria, such as Helen Ukpabio. You can find more information here – http://www.steppingstonesnigeria.org/images/pdf/ssn_statement_august_2011.pdf
      http://saharareporters.com/press-release/stepping-stones-nigeria-refutes-lies-newswatch-magazine

      Finally, I must make it clear that Stepping Stones Nigeria’s work in Nigeria is principally carried out through supporting partner organizations. At the moment we directly support four such organizations who provide frontline services to vulnerable children, such as those accused of witchcraft. These are Stepping Stones Nigeria Child Empowerment Foundation (ww.ssncef.org), Centre for Human Rights and Development (www.cehrd.org), Basic Rights Counsel and the Bar Human Rights Committee (www.barhumanrights.org.uk). Please feel free to contact them and find out whether Stepping Stones Nigeria really exists or whether our existence is “just on paper”.

      It is very easy to offer such ill thought-out criticism. It is much more difficult to try and work to find solutions to complex issues such as child witch accusations. I sincerely hope that, in future, you may do more research and think twice before making such misguided and untruthful claims.

      Best wishes,

      Gary Foxcroft – Director, Stepping Stones Nigeria
      g.foxcroft@steppingstonesnigeria.org

      • http://egregores.blogspot.com Apuleius Platonicus

        Here is a quote from an interview with you from the Telegraph (link):

        “Any Christian would look at the situation that is going on here and just be absolutely outraged that they were using the teachings of Jesus Christ to exploit and abuse innocent children.”

        So in the first place you completely exonerate Christians from playing any negative role. But what about non-Christians? This could be taken as implying that those who lack the benefits of Christianity are not outraged by “the abuse of innocent children”?

        You are also quoted as saying:

        “Christianity in the Niger Delta is seriously questionable, putting a traditional religion together with Christian religion – and it makes nonsense out of it,” he [Foxcroft] says. “If you are not rich and don’t have anything to eat, you look to blame someone. And if you don’t get anything, you blame it on the witches.”

        So Christianity by itself would never lead to such horrors, according to Gary Foxcroft, and the problem only arises because of mixing traditional African beliefs with Christianity. That is baloney, as the long sad history of Witch hunting by European Christians makes plain. Even if we are to give Christianity itself a pass, the specific forms of Christianity at work in the Child Witch phenomenon are not African and they have nothing to do with syncretic mixtures of Christianity with African traditions (which is the norm for Christianity in Africa). In fact, these specific forms of Christianity come from California (where Pentecostalism originated) and England (where the roots of Pentecostalism are found).

        Has Gary Foxcroft or anyone associate with Stepping Stones ever felt the need to say anything like the following: “Any follower of African Traditional Religion would look at the situation that is going on here and just be absolutely outraged that they were using traditional African beliefs and practices to exploit and abuse innocent children.”?? Has Gary Foxcroft ever made any statements to clarify his views on African Traditional Religions?

        Stepping Stones’ has also allied itself with those who are very unapologetic about their demonization of African Traditional Religion, such as the International Humanist and Ethical Union, and others who insist that the root of the problem is belief in “magic” and other “superstitions”. Such views are so taken for granted by many (perhaps including Gary Foxcroft) that they don’t realize the import of what they are saying. But the inevitable implication is that belief in magic leads to violence against children.

        Finally, all of this must be placed in the context of how the Western mainstream media (especially in the UK and the US) feeds on luridly sensationalistic and exploitative depictions of Darkest Africa, and especially those that portray horrific violence against children inspired by African “superstitions”. Stepping Stones has only been too happy to provide raw material to perpetuate denigrating stereotypes about Africa, while obscuring the central role of modern, Western Christian influences in the Child Witch phenomenon.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1183329613 Joseph Max

    I think every appearance of her’s must be met with a street-theater demonstration by local Pagans/Wiccans. I suggest pointy-hats and broomsticks (especially local folks bringing their young children and babies dressed as “witches”, some guys wearing goat masks and hairy pants, and similar mocking displays (parodies of her flyers and billboards, for example.) This kind of thing has to be met with Discordian bombardment. It’s much more effective than displays of anger or simple “protest”. Just be very careful to avoid African or Black stereotypes. Otherwise demonstrations get spun into “racism”. (Of course, they will still play that card, but it’s harder when the audience is laughing.) Laughter is still the best banishing.

    Is she coming to the Bay Area? I’d be glad to organize something along these lines.

  • Godwin Umotong

    The Lady Apostle Helen Ukpabio has been ministering in the United
    States since 2004. She visits the U S two to three times every year. Whenever she comes, people await her ministration with great joy. She had never ran contrary to the law – neither in Nigeria nor in any of the numerous countries of the world where she visits and ministers. One really wonders why this time around, people who specialize in peddling falsehood choose to distort facts, cook up and spread lies. Unfortunately, the Apostle answers only to God and regardless of all insinuations, God work will continue to be done.

    • Harmonyfb

      Helen Ukpabio is an evil woman, and if your god thinks torturing children is a good thing, then you need to take a long hard look at what evil spirit you’re really worshiping.

    • Rudegirl

      Godwin – please tell your beloved “apostle” that she is no longer welcome in the USA and that she can expect to be arrested upon arrival here. This is just the beginning. We will now look to ensure that governments elsewhere around the world stop her from entering and spreading her un-Christian message of hate against children. Eventually I have no doubt that she will face arrest in Nigeria also for the abuse of children that her gospel of hatred encourages. God’s work cannot be done by fat, greedy and exploitative people like her Godwin. Please open your eyes. This is not Christianity. This is purely business!

  • Crystal Kendrick

    That promotional poster looks like something from the World Wrestling Federation. The whole thing is just disgusting and sad, peddling religion- a dangerous abusive version of it- for profit.

  • http://twitter.com/Nibiru60 Saroya Fanniel

    This article is on point in exposure of yet another disseminator of Fear. Yet there is more going on here. Children are, in fact, more susceptible to the influence of others. And Africa has, in recent history, seen many of its children used to propagate terror through recruitment in various children’s brigades. Ms. Ukpabio is reflecting a couple of skewed perceptions. One created by the vestiges of European colonization and infiltration of Western-style Christianity into African cultural paradigms and the peculiarities of African tribal and clan politics. Instead of going after her solely, we should look at the destabilization of African societies and cultures caused by colonialism and chattel slavery which has left its nasty marks all over the continent. And, Ms Ukpabio is just another example of the neurosis created in its wake

    • http://egregores.blogspot.com Apuleius Platonicus

      Those who have studied the Child Witch phenomenon have generally reached the conclusion that societal destabilization has played a major role in its genesis. In fact the combination of two immediate acute influences in the 1990s led directly to the first outbreak of this phenomenon in DR Congo:

      1. Two horrific civil wars in which 4 million Congolese died, about 10% of the total population.
      2. The massive influx of televangelists and Pentecostalist missionaries (with Pat Robertson himself taking the lead).

      The Child Witch phenomenon spread from the urban areas of DR Congo first to Angola and then to Nigeria. Once the problem started taking root in Nigeria a third factor also came into play: the explosive growth of African cinema (and also television), which was centered in Nigeria, thus the term “Nollywood”. When Pat Roberton first set his sights on DR Congo (then called Zaire) in the early 90s he was laughed at because no one thought that televangelism would work in Africa because people were too poor to own TVs. But now DR Congo is approaching some European countries in terms of televisions per capita (and Nigeria is not far behind). The bottom line is that Nigerian films usually go straight to DVD and then are distributed throughout Africa (making Nigeria the second largest producer of movies in the world ahead of the United States and just behind India). And a significant portion of these are films depicting demon possession, exorcism and Child Witches in particular. The influence of Nollywood has even been cited as a major factor in cases of “child witches” among African communities in the diaspora, especially in the UK.

      Ukpabio is a symptom. The disease originated in the U.S. and the “apostles” and “prophets” in Africa are (as Ukpabio’s frequent world travels demonstrate) in large part funded by non-African sources, especially American evangelicals.