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New Yorkers Against Religion-Based Bigotry Message Board › Witchhunts in Africa and Asia

Witchhunts in Africa and Asia

Group Organizer
New York, NY
Post #: 249
To this thread, please add links to any news reports you come across pertaining to witch hunts (in the literal sense), especially in Africa or Asia, but elsewhere too.

We are especially interested in who/what/when/where specifics about (1) the instigators of witchhunts, (2) any activists or activist groups opposing the witchhunts, and (3) any charities that help the victims.

One article I came across is the following:

NEPAL: Women tortured for being 'witches'

which says, among other things:

-----BEGIN QUOTE-----------------------------------­------
Women’s rights activists have been battling for decades to end this form of gender violence but the problem persists, especially in the Terai region, the southern fertile plains of the country, they say.

“We are still shocked to find the incidence of women being subject to the worst form of violence - both physical and mental - at the hands of their families and local communities,” said activist Bandana Rana.

Rana’s documentary film, Witch - Myth or Reality, made nearly a decade ago, for the first time exposed the gross violation of human rights against Nepalese women accused of being witches.
-----END QUOTE-----------------------------------­--------

Group Organizer
New York, NY
Post #: 250
More witchhunt stories:

Africa in general

Video - Child "Witches" in Africa­

The child 'witches' of the Niger Delta (20 pictures)­

Nigeria in particular

'Child-witches' of Nigeria seek refuge
By David Harrison
Telegraph, UK/November 9, 2008
(mentions witchhunt opponent Gary Foxcroft, 29, programme director for the UK charity Stepping Stones, Nigeria)
(mentions Sam Itauma, a Nigerian, opened his house to four youngsters accused of witchcraft)
("Ten years ago there were few cases of children stigmatised by witchcraft. But since then the numbers have grown at an alarming rate and have reached an estimated 15,000 in Akwa Ibom state alone.")
("Helen Ukpabio, a self-styled prophetess of the 150-branch Liberty Gospel Church, made a film, widely distributed, called End of the Wicked. It tells, in graphic detail, how children become possessed and shows them being inducted into covens, eating human flesh and bringing chaos and death to their families and communities.")

Children are targets of Nigerian witch hunt
The Observer, Sunday 9 December 2007
(includes role of evangelicals, plus some charities for child victims)
(mentions Sam Ikpe-Itauma, who takes care of child "witches" and founded the "Child Rights and Rehabilitation Network," which "has found support from a charity running a school in the area, Stepping Stones Nigeria")­


Witch-Hunting Awareness Program
The Women's Foundation of Nepal

Mahottari witch-hunt brings widespread social ill to the fore
By Seema A Adhikari
(near bottom of page)
(mentions Krishna Pahadi, President of Human Rights and Peace Society (HURPES)
(mentions human rights activist. Mangal Raj Joshi, a prominent astrologer)

"Women Victims of Witch-hunt in Nepal"
by Sanjaya Dhakal ("One World," April 3, 2003)
(mentions Basanta Basnet, an advocate with nongovernmental organization, the Forum for Women, Law and Development)­

NEPAL: Women tortured for being 'witches'
A large number of women are victims to the witch hunt practice in Nepal
KATHMANDU, 18 November 2007 (IRIN)
(mentions activist Bandana Rana, whose documentary film, Witch - Myth or Reality, made nearly a decade ago, for the first time exposed the gross violation of human rights against Nepalese women accused of being witches)

Group Organizer
New York, NY
Post #: 256
I just now came across the following witchhunt story on the excellent blog Bartholomew's Notes on Religion: Helen Ukpabio Tells State Governor to “Remember what Happened to Saddam Hussein". This story has a link to the website of the Child Rights and Rehabilitation Network (CRARN), a Nigerian group which opposes witchhunts and cares for child victims. There's also a link to an earlier Bartholomew's Notes story, Opposition to Anti-Child Witchcraft Campaign in Nigeria.
Group Organizer
New York, NY
Post #: 270
I've just now been informed about the following news story:

Children in Nigeria branded witches and abused
Russia Today, July 2, 2009

The story mentions the following organizations which oppose witchhunts:

  • "the Child’s Rights and Rehabilitation Network (CRARN), which runs a camp and academy for abandoned and abused children."
  • "Stepping Stones Nigeria, another charity that protects Nigeria’s 'witch' children" and has produced "award winning documentary, Saving Africa’s Witch Children."

The article also mentions Christian leaders involved in the witchhunts. One is Bishop Sunday, who is said to have blatantly admitted, "I killed up to 110 people who were identified as being witches.”

The article also mentions a pro-witchhunt propaganda film, End of the Wicked, produced by prophetess Helen Ukpabio. Unlike Bishop Sunday, Helen Ukpabio claims that her aim is not to kill the "witches," but to "save families" -- apparently via exorcism, a.k.a. "mass healings." Nevertheless, critics say her film has resulted in a lot of parents abandoning their children or worse.

The article also mentions "a paper commissioned by United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR)," which confirms “that witchcraft accusations lead to violence and persecution,” and mentions that "The agency is currently seeking a professional to perform a study on the issue."

The article also contains horrifying accounts of the torture and mutilation of children suspected of being "witches." Don't read this on a full stomach.
A former member
Post #: 2
This is a horrible development, but not surprised that women and children suffer the brunt of the torture and persecution: fundamentalisms of all stripes aren't likely to value those two groups very highly. Thank you for bringing this information together; I would support trying to join with other LHP/pagan/occult/anti-religious-bigotry groups to educate about this underreported story, or even plan a benefit for the groups on the ground fighting against the persecution.

Angela Amaladevi
Group Organizer
New York, NY
Post #: 296
MSNBC is now documenting the role of some African churches in promoting witch hunts:

African churches denounce children as ‘witches’
Pastors accuse thousands of children, leading to torture or death
MSNBC, Sat., Oct . 17, 2009

The article begins with a mention of the Children's Rights and Rehabilitation Network, a local Nigerian charity which helps child victims of witchhunts, in Eket, Nigeria.

One of the offending churches has the name "Mount Zion Lighthouse," identified later in the article as "part of the powerful Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria," whose president, Ayo Oritsejafor, is paraphrased as saying that the Fellowship is "the fastest-growing religious group in Nigeria, with more than 30 million members."

The article says:
Pastors were involved in half of 200 cases of "witch children" reviewed by the AP, and 13 churches were named in the case files.

Some of the churches involved are renegade local branches of international franchises. Their parishioners take literally the Biblical exhortation, "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live."

The article also contains some analysis by Martin Dawes, identified as a spokesman for the United Nations Children's Fund.

The article then says:
The idea of witchcraft is hardly new, but it has taken on new life recently partly because of a rapid growth in evangelical Christianity. Campaigners against the practice say around 15,000 children have been accused in two of Nigeria's 36 states over the past decade and around 1,000 have been murdered. In the past month alone, three Nigerian children accused of witchcraft were killed and another three were set on fire.

Nigeria is one of the heartlands of abuse, but hardly the only one: the United Nations Children's Fund says tens of thousands of children have been targeted throughout Africa.

Anti-witchhunt activists mentioned in the article include "Gary Foxcroft, head of nonprofit Stepping Stones Nigeria," and "Sam Itauma of the Children's Rights and Rehabilitation Network."

One prominent witchhunter is discussed at length:
Helen Ukpabio is one of the few evangelists publicly linked to the denunciation of child witches. She heads the enormous Liberty Gospel church in Calabar, where Nwanaokwo used to live. Ukpabio makes and distributes popular books and DVDs on witchcraft; in one film, a group of child witches pull out a man's eyeballs. In another book, she advises that 60 percent of the inability to bear children is caused by witchcraft.

In an interview with the AP, Ukpabio is accompanied by her lawyer, church officials and personal film crew.

"Witchcraft is real," Ukpabio insisted, before denouncing the physical abuse of children. Ukpabio says she performs non-abusive exorcisms for free and was not aware of or responsible for any misinterpretation of her materials.

"I don't know about that," she declared.

However, she then acknowledged that she had seen a pastor from the Apostolic Church break a girl's jaw during an exorcism. Ukpabio said she prayed over her that night and cast out the demon. She did not respond to questions on whether she took the girl to hospital or complained about the injury to church authorities.

The article ends by talking about Sam Itauma's apparently-justified fear of retaliation by local churches against himself and the Children's Rights and Rehabilitation Network..
Group Organizer
New York, NY
Post #: 313
Here is a blog by a Nigerian anti-witchhunt activist, Children of Nigeria.

And here are some relevant news stories (listed below in reverse chronological order) from Bartholemew's Notes on Religion:

And here is a post, from last year, on an evangelical Christian blog: Saving Africa’s Witch Children – the most upsetting documentary. This blogger blames "African witch doctors re-invented" -- ignoring the likely role of U.S.-based religious trends such as neo-Pentecostalism and "deliverance ministries."

Group Organizer
New York, NY
Post #: 315
Some posts from Bartholemew's Notes on Religion about witchhunts in countries other than Nigeria:

Group Organizer
New York, NY
Post #: 323
Thomas Muthee, the pastor who "anointed" Sarah Palin with a blessing to protect her against "witches," claims to have driven a "witch" out of the town of Kiambu, in Kenya. But it turns out that his story is disputed by the alleged "witch" herself, Mama Jane Njengu, an herbalist and a pastor with the African Mission of Holy Ghost Church. She says Muthee did accuse her of being a witch, but she was popular enough in the town that most people did not believe his accusations against her. She says:

"When Muthee came, he took a loudspeaker into the street and he told people to pray for seven days that I would die," Njenga says. "If I was not known in the town, I could not have survived even to put my children through school."

See Kenyan Who Blessed Palin Chases Witches at Home, Women's eNews by Zoe Alsop, Sunday, October 12, 2008. Alas, this story also reports:

Eleven elderly Kenyans, mostly women, were burned to death in May after locals accused them of being witches. Thirty houses were also torched. Witchcraft is often blamed here for personal misfortunes, including the death of a child, HIV-AIDS and even crimes like cattle rustling, rape and murder.

Thanks to Bartholomew's Notes on Religion, Bishop Thomas Muthee: Mama Jane Speaks!, October 16, 2008.

Group Organizer
New York, NY
Post #: 334
Here's a page on "strategic level spiritual warfare" apparently written by a neo-Pentecostal evangelical Christian in India.

However, I don't yet know how influential this kind of Christianity is in India (and other south Asian countries such as Nepal), or whether it has had any significant role in encouraging the witchhunts there.

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