4 Nov 2010

Liberty Gospel Church members assault children's rights activists at meeting to end 'child-witch' atrocities

PRESS RELEASE
For Immediate Release
Contact:Nathan Bupp
Phone:(716) 636-4869 x 218
E-mail:nbupp@centerforinquiry.net
CFI Representative Assaulted by Christians at Children’s Rights Conference

August 05, 2009

Gospel church upset at efforts to halt African atrocities based on fear and ‘magic’

Amherst, New York (Aug 5, 2009)— The Center for Inquiry’s anti-superstition campaign has turned dangerous.

During a passive Nigerian conference meant to explore ways of combating the abuse, expulsion and murder of children wrongly accused of witchcraft, more than 150 members of the Christian witch-hunter Helen Ukpabio’s Liberty Gospel Church reportedly overpowered the non-combative participants, invading the conference and subjecting attendees to threats, violence and physical attacks. During the July 29 incident, the mob attacked conference speaker Leo Igwe, the Center for Inquiry’s Nigerian representative and secretary of the Nigerian Humanist Movement. Igwe said disruptive individuals broke his glasses and stole his bag, camera, cell phone and other items in an unsuccessful attempt to halt the discussion. A transcript of Igwe’s talk—copies of which he reported were stolen with his bag—is available upon request.

“The Liberty Gospel Church’s disruptions show just how important this anti-superstition campaign is,” said Norm R. Allen Jr., executive director of African Americans for Humanism and CFI’s Transnational Programs. “Religious fanatics are running scared and becoming desperate.” Read Allen’sCFI blog posting on this incident.

The invasion was captured on video [see below], and posted to the Internet. The short (2:40) video includes statements from Nigerian journalist Patrick Naagbanton and Dr. Enyeribe Onuoha, chairman of the Nigerian Humanist Movement. “This ‘witchcraft thing’ is based on superstition, and it doesn’t exist, but children are losing their lives because of it,” said Dr. Onuoha. “Adults, their houses are being burned and families are being destroyed because of it.”

According to a report from Calabar, Nigeria, the state government was embarrassed by the attacks of the Liberty Gospel Church members on the conference, and the governor has reportedly called for Ukpabio’s arrest.

Ukpabio is infamous for organizing witch hunts, allegedly inciting violence and spreading misinformation about children and adults accused of witchcraft. She has reportedly used the political clout of her church recently to influence authorities into unlawfully detaining individuals running a haven camp for displaced families. The families, driven from their homes by neighbors consumed with superstitious panic and unwarranted fear of “magic,” were subjected to further inhumane treatment and violence.

“Throughout the years, religious fanatics have tried to thwart genuine progress by resorting to violence. However, truly committed human rights activists always seem to prevail,” Allen said. “I fully suspect such will be the case as African humanists and skeptics continue to fight against superstition in all its forms.”

The Center for Inquiry, an international organization dedicated to education, reason, and secular ethics, launched its campaign against superstition-driven violence May 29 in Ghana with a groundbreaking seminar titled “Witchcraft and its Impact on Development.” The seminar began a continuing campaign to fight against ongoing atrocities, educate the public, and implore Africans to employ reason against the violence and tragedy fostered by belief in witchcraft, unchecked superstition, and fear of malevolent magic.

Igwe continues to promote the campaign, traveling to Cape Town South Africa Aug. 29-30 for a workshop, and to Lilongwe, Malawi Sept. 4-5 for a conference on Humanism, Religion, and Witchcraft. Additional planned campaign activities include protest marches, communiqu├ęs and meetings with officials, letter-writing movements, and aggressive widespread consciousness-raising efforts geared toward modernizing Africa.

“Superstitious ideas, many of them rooted in religion, continue to thwart social and economic progress throughout the African continent,” said Allen. “What African humanists and skeptics are doing is uncompromisingly challenging these harmful ideas and offering a humane and rational alternative, drawing upon humanistic ethics and an appreciation for scientific methods of investigation.”

Superstitions—including belief in witchcraft—are based on fear, magical thinking and inadequate education, and are regularly exploited in Africa by unscrupulous individuals in positions of influence. Until this campaign, there have not been any major organized efforts to critically analyze, debate and dispel superstitions, myths, misconceptions and other deeply harmful practices in Africa.

“The lives of innocent children are at stake,” said Allen. “If courageous adults will not come to their defense, who will?”

In order to bring this matter to the attention of Nigerian authorities, an independent petition site has been set up, titled Make Helen Ukpabio Face Justice.

Contact: Norm R. Allen Jr.
Phone: [716] 636-7571 x 426
Hotel phone (Aug 6-9) [404] 524-7991
E-mail:nallen@centerforinquiry.net

Contact: Leo Igwe
Phone: 234 80338 61053
E-mail:nskepticleo@yahoo.com

The Center for Inquiry/Transnational, a nonprofit, educational, advocacy, and scientific-research think tank based in Amherst, New York, is also home to the Council for Secular Humanism, founded in 1980; and the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (formerly CSICOP), founded in 1976. The Center for Inquiry’s research and educational projects focus on three broad areas: religion, ethics, and society; paranormal and fringe-science claims; and sound public policy. The Center’s Web site iswww.centerforinquiry.net.

This article was found at: http://www.centerforinquiry.net/newsroom/cfi_representative_assaulted_by_christians_at_childrens_rights_confe


Helen Ukpabio militia invade child rights conference in Calabar, Nigeria 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bWktZEj6OZ8&feature=player_embedded

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Update on August 24, 2009

CultureKitchen.com

Leo Igwe from Nigeria: Protecting Children from Abuse by Religious Extremists

[Editor's Note: Posted on Leo's behalf by mole333...this welcoming address came shortly before Leo Igwe was attacked by the same religious fanatics who are abusing children in the name of religion]

BEING A WELCOME ADDRESS BY LEO IGWE TO THE PUBLIC SYMPOSIUM ORGANIZED BY THE NIGERIAN HUMANIST MOVEMENT AND STEPPING STONES NIGERIA ON JULY 29 2009 AT THE CONFERENCE HALL OF THE CULTURAL CENTRE COMPLEX IN CALABAR

Your Excellency,the Executive Governor of Cross River State, Senator Liyel Imoke,

Your Excellency,

The Wife of the Governor Mrs. Obioma Liyel Imoke, Representatives of Commissioners. Representatives of other governmental and non-governmental organizations. Members of the Press.

Fellow Humanists.

Ladies and Gentlemen.

Good Morning, it is my pleasure to welcome you all to this important symposium on witchcraft and child rights taking place here at the Cultural Centre Complex, in Calabar.

For far too long, the phenomenon of witchcraft has haunted the minds of our people and our society. For some time this ancient superstition has terrorized or has been used to terrorize our communities. The belief in witchcraft has darkened, destroyed and narrowed the promises and possibilities of our culture and civilization. Unfortunately, the issue of witchcraft has not been given the attention it deserves due to fear, ignorance, religious fanaticism and misguided beliefs.

Our society has not provided an adequate response to this menacing phenomenon. Hence the belief in witches and wizards continues to fester, pollute and corrupt our social psyche and conscience.

This symposium is convened for four main reasons.

First of all, we are here to highlight the abuses of child rights that take place in our communities due to the belief in witchcraft. Witchcraft has been a weapon for human rights abuses especially the violation of rights of children. In recent times there have been cases where innocent children alleged to be witches and wizards are tortured and abandoned by their parents or family members.

Right now a witch camp exists in Eket in Akwa lbom State where some child victims are kept. The existence of the witch camp is a damning indictment of our society and our humanity. In Cross River and other states across the country, many of the so called "child witches" roam the streets. They sleep in the bush, scavenge for survival or get trafficked by unscrupulous persons. One of the children at the camp in Eket told me that when she was abandoned by the family, she went and stayed with a mad woman who was feeding her till she was picked up and taken to the Centre for Child Rights and Rehabilitation Network.

We look forward to listening and examining the claims of witchcraft accusers even those of the witches and wizards themselves if there are any of them present at this event. We hope at the end of the day that none of us will have any reason to accuse or label any child a witch; none of us will have any cause to maltreat or suffer to death any child even if the child under any circumstances professes to be a witch.

The second objective of this event is to educate the public about the dangers of the belief in witchcraft and other superstitions. Our belief shapes our actions and decisions. Mistaken beliefs can lead to mistaken actions and decisions. And so it is with witchcraft. Witchcraft is superstition. And not all superstitions are innocuous. Some superstitions can have very harmful and destructive effects. The stigmatization and persecution of children alleged to be witches are part of those ills that could befall any society that allows beliefs informed by fear and ignorance to guide it or govern it.

Another aim of this symposium is to identify the role of ‘false prophets’ in spreading the belief in witchcraft. Many of our so-called pastors-men and women of God claim to have powers to identify witches and to defeat the powers of witchcraft – whatever that means. These pastors organize witch-testing, witch screening and witch deliverance sessions where fellow human beings alleged to be witches and wizards are literally tortured and tormented sometimes to death. Many children have been abandoned or abused by their families after they had been identified by pastors to be witches. Some pastors charge exorbitant fees to deliver children of witchcraft.

This event is convened to draw the attention of the Cross River State Government to these criminal activities of some unscrupulous pastors so that they could be arrested and be prosecuted under the Child Rights Act.

Lastly, the aim of this symposium is to dialogue and network with government and non-governmental agencies, traditional rulers, youths, students and women groups in order to tackle this problem. We cannot do this battle alone. We cannot win this battle without your support and cooperation. We are stretching hands of friendship and fellowship to all of you present, to all organizations represented here. We are asking you to join efforts with us in freeing our children and the society at large from the dark, destructive and abusive effects of witchcraft and other superstitions.

As you know, this gathering would have been absolutely unnecessary if ours is a society that learns from its own history and from its own mistakes. If our generation is one that learns and can learn from the mistakes of others. Centuries ago witches were burnt at stake in Europe and America. But today, people in these places regard witch killing as a mistake of the past.

So many years ago, a woman called Mary Slessor lived in this town. She worked, campaigned and helped bring to an end to a despicable practice – the killing of twins. This practice was upheld as a tradition and supported by various superstitions, myths, and misconceptions. But Mary Slessor worked to dispel these erroneous notions and helped bring this vicious custom to an end.

Today we regard the killing of twins, as a mistake of the past, and I want to state clearly and unequivocally, that the killing, persecution and stigmatization of children in the name of witchcraft is a mistake of the present. Lets stop it.

It may interest you to know that in this town, where a woman worked to abolish an outrageous tradition that was used to abuse children, another woman is working to undermine the efforts to protect abused infants in Eket, Children who were rejected and abandoned by their families for allegedly being witches. On July 3, police officers from Lagos raided a camp in Eket where these children are kept. They arrested Ellie, the wife of the

Coordinator of the camp, Sam Ituarna, and a member of the staff, Eseme. They beat up some of the children and seriously injured two of them. When I was informed of this development, I got through to the Commissioner of Police in Uyo through the Inspector General of Police. The Commissioner of Police ordered the release of those detained. But hours later, Ellie and Eseme were still in detention. I called the Commissioner of Police to find out why they were still detained. And he told me that one evangelist from Calabar called insulting him and asking why he ordered the release of those who had threatened to kill her. I was later told that the Police officers were sent from Lagos following a petition by Evangelist Helen Ukpabio of the Liberty Gospel Church. Helen and some other pastors have been heavily criticized for fuelling the stigmatization and persecution of children alleged to be witches and wizards.

It is undeniable that the activities — sermons and crusades and films of witch testing witch screening and witch delivering pastors have largely been responsible for this wave of witch hunt that targets children that is sweeping across our communities. But Helen Ukpabio had taken the criticisms in bad faith. Instead of quietly shifting the focus of her ministry to something protective, and not abusive of child rights, Helen has been working to undermine efforts to protect, support and defend these child victims in Eket.

Now is the time to call Helen Ukpabio to order. And I am calling on the government of Cross River State to arrest Helen Ukpabio and get her prosecuted. All those who fuel, aid and abet witchcraft related abuses of children must be made to face justice.

In conclusion, we would like to commend the Cross River state government for domesticating the Child Rights Acts. We urge it to take all necessary measures to ensure that it is fully implemented. Also government should back the legislation with public education programs to enlighten the people and get them to abandon this primitive belief.

And this meeting is a program in that direction.

Once again, I want to welcome you all to this event. I wish you very fruitful deliberations.

This article was found at: http://culturekitchen.com/mole333/blog/leo_igwe_from_nigeria_protecting_children_from_abuse_by_religio

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