Last year in New Humanist, Richard Wilson reported on the fight against African witch-hunts, which are often aimed at children, and he spoke to Igwe about the activities of Ukpabio's Liberty Gospel Church, which have included legal and physical intimidation of those campaigning against witch-hunts.
Now, Igwe is urging humanists to take note of Ukpabio's attempt to extend her ministry to the US, where she is scheduled to hold a 12-day "Marathon Deliverance" in Houston, Texas from 14-25 March. The poster offers the chance to "receive ... freedom from the Lord" from the following:
- In bondage
- Having bad dreams
- Under witchcraft attack or oppression
- Possessed by mermaid spirit or other evil spirits
- Untimely deaths in family
- Barren and in frequent miscarriges
- Under health torture
- Lack of promotion with slow progress
- Unsuccessful life with disappointment
- Financial impotency with difficulties
- Facing victimization and lack of promotion
- Stagnated life with failures
- Chronic and incurable diseases?
Helen Ukpabio is a Christian fundamentalist and a Biblical literalist. She 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 fulfil her 'anointed mission' of delivering people from witchcraft attack. Ukpabio organises deliverance sessions where she identifies and exorcises 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.
The activities of Helen Ukpabio, including her publications, films (like the End of the Wicked) and sermons, are among the factors that have fuelled witchcraft accusations against children in the region.
This was captured in a documentary, Saving Africa's Witch Children which was broadcast in 2008 on Channel 4 in the UK. Thanks to the activities of a UK based charity, Stepping Stones Nigeria, and its local partners, the problem of witchcraft accusations against children and the ignominous roles of Ukpabio and her Liberty Gospel church and other 'superstition miners' were brought to the attention of the world. Since the broadcast of the documentary, Ukpabio and her thugs at the Liberty Gospel church have been campaigning to undermine Stepping Stones Nigeria and its efforts to tackle and address the problem of child witch hunting in Nigeria.
They brought several lawsuits against SSN and its partners, and lost. They have embarked on smearing campaign using local journalists to publish reports in the media which portrayed the projects of SSN in Nigeria as fraud.
In 2009, Ukpabio mobilised her church members who invaded the venue of a local seminar on witchcraft and the rights of the child organised by Stepping Stones and the Nigerian Humanist Movement in Calabar, Cross River State. They beat me up and stole my personal belongings. While the police were still investigating the matter, Helen Ukpabio and her church members went to court. They sued me, SSN and its partners, asking that we pay them millions of dollars in damages for depriving them of the right to believe in witchcraft. Again they lost.
The police have yet to arrest and prosecute Ukpabio and her church members for invading and disrupting our seminar, for attacking me and stealing my personal items. Police have yet to bring this woman to justice for abusing children in the name of delivering them from witchcraft and for inciting violence, hatred and persecution against persons accused of witchcraft
You can find out more about Igwe's work via the International Humanist and Ethical Union, which has supported his work in Western and Southern Africa. You can also learn more about the campaign against witch-hunts via Stepping Stones Nigeria.Efforts must be made to stop this evangelical throwback from spreading her diseased gospel in the US.