Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Nigerian evangelical sues humanists for obstructing her "anti-witchcraft" activities

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Earlier this year, we reported in our print edition on the violent disruption of a conference on Witchcraft and Children's Rights organised by the Nigerian Humanist Movement in Calabar, Nigeria. The meeting was invaded by more than 200 supporters of the Liberty Gospel Church (there's a YouTube video here), a ministry responsible for shocking persecution of Nigerians it suspects of "witchcraft". The Nigerian humanists, led by their fearless director Leo Igwe (pictured here), have been campaigning to publicise the activities of Christian churches responsible for such activities – many of those accused of witchcraft are children, and whole families have had their homes destroyed and been driven from their villages as a result.

The Liberty Gospel Church's leader, Helen Ukpabio, has taken exception to the humanist campaign – she was behind the attack on the conference in July, and we learn this week from Igwe that she is now suing him for supposedly violating her Christians rights by campaigning against her persecution of "witches". In a press release distributed to members of the International Humanist and Ethical Union this week, Igwe explained:
"Helen applied to the Federal High Court in Calabar for the enforcement of her fundamental rights. She claimed, among other things,that the conference on Witchcraft and Child Rights, held on July 29 in Calabar – which her members disrupted – and the arrest of her church members on the said date constituted an infringement on their rights to practice their christian religious belief relating to witchcraft. She asked the court to issue perpetual injunctions restraining me and others -
From interfering with their practice of christianity and their deliverance of people with witchcraft spirit.
From holding seminars or workshops denouncing the christian religious belief in witchcraft
From arresting her and her church members etc.
Helen asked the court to order that I, the Akwa Ibom state government, Sam Ituama, CRARN [Child Rights and Rehabilitation Network] and Gary Foxcroft [of charity Stepping Stones Nigeria] pay her 200 billion naira (800,000 US Dollars) as damages for unlawful and unconstitutional infringement on her rights to belief in God, Satan, witchcraft, Heaven and Hell fire and for unlawful and unconstitutional detention of her two church members."
As the recent Channel 4 documentary Return to Africa's Witch Children (UK viewers can still watch on 4OD) highlighted, the violent persecution by fundamentalists of those accused of witchcraft is a widespread and horrific problem in Nigeria and throughout Africa. Humanist campaigners such as Igwe, along with charities such as Stepping Stones Nigeria, are bravely standing up to these abuses, and they deserve all the support we can give them. Igwe faces a court hearing on 17 December and he intends to fight the case brought against him by Helen Ukpabio, as he explained in the press release:
"It is obvious that Helen Ukpabio is a crook. She has transformed her so called Liberty Gospel Church into a criminal gang. Helen and her church members want evade arrest and prosecution by all means. Otherwise how could one explain the reason behind these frivolous allegations and trumped-up charges. Particularly how does one explain why this so called woman of God has gone to court asking that I pay her damages (who should actually pay each other damages?), after her church members under her directive, disrupted our conference, beat me up, stole my bag and made away with other personal belongings. Helen Ukpabio should be ready to face justice and answer for her crimes. She should be ready to pay damages to thousands of children who have been tortured, traumatized, abused and abandoned as a result of her misguided ministry. Helen should be ready to pay for the damage she has done to many homes and households across Nigeria through her witchcraft schemes and other fraudulent activities. She should be ready to pay compensation to all care givers and child rights advocates who have been attacked, harrassed and robbed by her gangs and goons.
So, whatever the mischief this vicious woman and her rag tag ministry are planning, I am convinced that at the end of the day, reason, justice and human rights will prevail."
We'll endeavour to provide more information on the case here as and when we receive it from Igwe.

8 comments:

AT said...

I dunno. I think if there are witches out there, somebody out to be taking responsibility for taking them out. Especially if they're kids - because then you'd never see the witchcraft coming.

1minionsopinion said...

They're hardly the Midwich Cuckoos. People have some bizarre idea in their heads about children having incredible witchy powers that don't exist in real life anyway and then kill those kids thinking it's going to solve a problem. It's terrible and horrific.

Anonymous said...

I have no knowledge of Nigerian law and am somewhat amazed that this person was able to file such a lawsuit in the first place. Hopefully, it will be dispensed with quickly or even dismissed outright allowing Leo Igwe and others like him to continue their good work.

LKL said...

My family give donations in each other's honor rather than buying presents for each other in the holiday season. Is there any way to contribute to this legal fund, or help in some other way?

Eiskrystal said...

You don't need a fund, you simply need to lock up this lunatic for her already well known crimes.

Better yet, accuse her of witchcraft and have her burnt at the stake. It would be more amusingly ironic.

LKL said...

locking her up would be a great result of this, but in the real world the good guys can't make the right thing happening just by being calm and rational. Good lawyers help a lot, and good lawyers cost money.

Anonymous said...

In some place, good judges cost money too.

nazani said...

So, where is Rick Warren and the other promoters of Evangelical churches in Africa? Shouldn't they be charging in to correct this abuse?

....crickets chirp....
Th religious seem unable to get their minds around one simple fact- insisting that there be no birth control in societies with limited resources leads to conflict and abuse. They don't care if a child is born with no chance for a decent life, as long as they have provided another "soul" for god to put in his basket, so they get a celestial brownie point.