The Witch-Hunters in America

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The New York Times spotlights controversial Nigerian Pentecostal preacher Helen Ukpabio as a documentary about her, “Saving Africa’s Witch Children”, airs in America for the first time. I’ve mentioned Ukpabio on this blog before, and like some other “witch-hunters” in Africa, is receiving direct support from American churches.

“Visiting Houston last week to lead a four-night revival for a local church, Ms. Ukpabio, 41, had no idea that “Saving Africa’s Witch Children,” which brought protesters out to greet her in London, was about to be shown in the United States. But she was eager to defend herself.”

In Nigeria, Ukpabio is a media industry, creating propagandistic “expository”  horror films featuring witchcraft possessed children, while selling non-fiction religious titles like “Unveiling The Mysteries of Witchcraft” that make assertions about the reality of child witches.

“Evangelist Helen Ukpabio has written many books and produced many home videos, all chillingly pointing to and reinforcing the belief that children can be and are indeed witches. She has produced so much misinformation that it is genuinely doubtful if posterity can forgive this lady. Her books have sold in millions, likewise her tainted home movies. In a particular book titled “Unveiling the Mysteries of Witchcraft”, Mrs Ukpabio exposed her dangerous mindset by her inflammatory guidance to diagnosing witchcraft. On pages 76 to 83 of this book, Mrs Ukpabio affirmed that children under two years of age who “scream at night, cries, show sudden deterioration in health, show attitude of fear or who fail to feed well” are witches. For children over two years of age, witchcraft can be diagnosed when such kids are “unusually bold, tell lies, steals, becomes very stubborn, crafty, suddenly droop from good to poor performance at school, hates school, are destructive at home…, sleep much in the day time, suddenly stammer when asked questions with excessive blinking of the eyelids, ….”. In this book, Mrs Ukpabio exposed her antisocial mindset in readily diagnosing witchcraft for every manifestation of poverty and social rebellion in children.”

In short, she is a major part of the industry that is benefiting from the vilifying and abuse of innocent children. Ukpabio defends herself by saying that Western criticism is anti-African prejudice, while African criticism is a mere “scam”. Yet if she truly believed that organizations like Stepping Stones Nigeria were only a money-grabbing “419” scam, why have/allow her followers to disrupt their meetings, attack them in the press, and bringing litigation against them? Seems like a lot of trouble for a group that is simply trying to milk Westerners of their dough.

Ukpabio and her ilk who are touring American (primarily Pentecostal) churches, benefiting from their largess, and co-mingling with our own home-grown prayer warriors, should be worrisome.  Because hysteria is an easily exportable commodity, and this cross-pollination seems to encourage some troubling behavior from some very prominent people here at home. What happens when the witch-hunters over there become increasingly popular over here? Anti-witch hysteria in the “third world” isn’t hermetically sealed up there, this is an international epidemic that could have far-reaching implications for those of us who identify as the very thing they vilify.