Mary Sudnad, 10, grimaces as her hair is pulled into corn rows by Agnes, 11, but the scalp just above her forehead is bald and blistered. Mary tells her story fast, in staccato, staring fixedly at the ground.
‘My youngest brother died. The pastor told my mother it was because I was a witch. Three men came to my house. I didn’t know these men. My mother left the house. Left these men. They beat me.’ She pushes her fists under her chin to show how her father lay, stretched out on his stomach on the floor of their hut, watching. After the beating there was a trip to the church for ‘a deliverance’.
A day later there was a walk in the bush with her mother. They picked poisonous ‘asiri’ berries that were made into a draught and forced down Mary’s throat. If that didn’t kill her, her mother warned her, then it would be a barbed-wire hanging. Finally her mother threw boiling water and caustic soda over her head and body, and her father dumped his screaming daughter in a field. Drifting in and out of consciousness, she stayed near the house for a long time before finally slinking off into the bush. Mary was seven. She says she still doesn’t feel safe. She says: ‘My mother doesn’t love me.’ And, finally, a tear streaks down her beautiful face.
Gerry was picked out by a ‘prophetess’ at a prayer night and named as a witch. His mother cursed him, his father siphoned petrol from his motorbike tank and spat it over his eight-year-old face. Gerry’s facial blistering is as visible as the trauma in his dull eyes. He asks every adult he sees if they will take him home to his parents: ‘It’s not them, it’s the prophetess, I am scared of her.’
Nwaeka is about 16. She sits by herself in the mud, her eyes rolling, scratching at her stick-thin arms. The other children are surprisingly patient with her. The wound on her head where a nail was driven in looks to be healing well. Nine- year-old Etido had nails, too, five of them across the crown of his downy head. Its hard to tell what damage has been done. Udo, now 12, was beaten and abandoned by his mother. He nearly lost his arm after villagers, finding him foraging for food by the roadside, saw him as a witch and hacked at him with machetes.
Magrose is seven. Her mother dug a pit in the wood and tried to bury her alive. Michael was found by a farmer clearing a ditch, starving and unable to stand on legs that had been flogged raw.
Ekemini Abia has the look of someone in a deep state of shock. Both ankles are circled with gruesome wounds and she moves at a painful hobble. Named as a witch, her father and elders from the church tied her to a tree, the rope cutting her to the bone, and left the 13-year-old there alone for more than a week.
If you thought witch-hunts were a thing of the past, think again. These shocking stories are the fruits of so-called evangelical Christians in Africa. And these are the ones that survived. Many have been killed. Hundreds if not thousands of young Nigerian children have been branded witches, then either attacked or abandoned by their families. Worse, some of the churches charge money for this ‘service.’
He estimates around 5,000 children have been abandoned in this area since 1998 and says many bodies have turned up in the rivers or in the forest. Many more are never found. ‘The more children the pastor declares witches, the more famous he gets and the more money he can make,’ he says. ‘The parents are asked for so much money that they will pay in installments or perhaps sell their property. This is not what churches should be doing.’
Although old tribal beliefs in witch doctors are not so deeply buried in people’s memories, and although there had been indigenous Christians in Nigeria since the 19th century, it is American and Scottish Pentecostal and evangelical missionaries of the past 50 years who have shaped these fanatical beliefs. Evil spirits, satanic possessions and miracles can be found aplenty in the Bible, references to killing witches turn up in Exodus, Deuteronomy and Galatians, and literal interpretation of scriptures is a popular crowd-pleaser.
Pastor Joe Ita is the preacher at Liberty Gospel Church in nearby Eket. ‘We base our faith on the Bible, we are led by the holy spirit and we have a programme of exposing false religion and sorcery.’ Soft of voice and in his smart suit and tie, his church is being painted and he apologises for having to sit outside near his shiny new Audi to talk. There are nearly 60 branches of Liberty Gospel across the Niger Delta. It was started by a local woman, mother-of-two Helen Ukpabio, whose luxurious house and expensive white Humvee are much admired in the city of Calabar where she now lives. Many people in this area credit the popular evangelical DVDs she produces and stars in with helping to spread the child witch belief.
This is what the Christian cherry-pickers ignore when they say the bible is the “word of God.” And sadistic and greedy Nigerian religious leaders following passages from Exodus, Deuteronomy, and Galatians to the letter are foisting this bloodthirsty dogma onto superstitious families too stupid to know better.
It is hard to find people to speak out against the brutality. Chief Victor Ikot is one. He not only speaks out against the ‘tinpot’ churches, but has also done the unthinkable and taken in a witch to his own home. The chief’s niece, Mbet, was declared a witch when she was eight. Her mother, Ekaete, made her drink olive oil, then poison berries, then invited local men to beat her with sticks. The pastor padlocked her to a tree but unlocked her when her mother could not find the money for a deliverance. Mbet fled. Mbet, now 11, says she has not seen the woman since, adding: ‘My mother is a wicked mother.’
The Observer tracked down Mbet’s mother to her roadside clothing stall where she nervously fiddled with her mobile phone and told us how her daughter had given her what sounded very much like all the symptoms of malaria. ‘I had internal heat,’ she says, indicating her stomach. ‘It was my daughter who had caused this, she drew all the water from my body. I could do nothing. She was stubborn, very stubborn.’ And if her daughter had died in the bush? She shrugged: ‘That is God’s will. It is in God’s hands.’
Chief Victor has no time for his sister-in-law. ‘Nowadays when a child becomes stubborn, then everyone calls them witches. But it is usually from the age of 10 down, I have never seen anyone try to throw a macho adult into the street. This child becomes a nuisance, so they give a dog a bad name and they can hang it.
‘It is alarming because no household is untouched. But it is the greed of the pastors, driving around in Mercedes, that makes them choose the vulnerable.’
In a nearby village The Observer came across five-year-old twins, Itohowo and Kufre. They are still hanging around close to their mother’s shack, but are obviously malnourished and in filthy rags. Approaching the boys brings a crowd of villagers who stand around and shout: ‘Take them away from us, they are witches.’ ‘Take them away before they kill us all.’ ‘Witches’.
The woman who gave birth to these sorry scraps of humanity stands slightly apart from the crowd, arms crossed. Iambong Etim Otoyo has no intention of taking any responsibility for her sons. ‘They are witches,’ she says firmly and walks away.
But whoever is a cause of trouble to one of these little ones (children) who have faith in me, it would be better for him to have a great stone fixed to his neck, and to come to his end in the deep sea. Matthew 18:10
It is beyond horrific what is going on there, Thank you so much for bringing this to my attention, I will begin praying immediately to bring conviction and wisdom into the hearts of these misguided parents and to heed the word of God and not man.
Christians should never take the word of men only, we have a duty and responsibility to pray, read, study and discern for ourselves his scriptures making absolutely sure our “minister” is on the right track, any responsible pastor should tell his own congregation the same.
If these parents had done that then they would have read James 4:7 â€œResist the devil and he will flee from youâ€ or Ephesians 6:10-18 which has a good outline of having victory in our lives in the battle against the forces of evil.
1) Placing our faith in Christ
2) We are then to choose, again by God’s grace, to put off ungodly habits and to put on godly habits (renewing our minds)
LOL, Roger. It is the so-called “word of God” that caused the problems in the first place.
I’m amazed you still don’t get the bankruptcy of scripture. To you it supports humanity and compassion, to others it supports a witch hunt. And they are as sure of their beliefs as you are of yours.
You both need to get rid of your beliefs and embrace reality.
I can see us being friends, Oh, posh tish. A devout Christian: staunch atheist, now that is what I would call a true odd couple.
I don’t see it that way, there is nothing in God’s word to support this type of thinking nor actions.
Remember Christians come from all walks of life, different backgrounds that affect one’s thinking and before the gospel (good news) was brought to the Nigerians they were a highly superstitious people practicing and believing in the occult such as obeah (black magic) etc… A practice that was here long before a man named Jesus was born, unfortunately for those children they have not given their all to God and become a new creature but still hold on to their old wicked, sinful ways, embedding Christianity.
That remains to be seen. I will say you are persistent, even in the face of my bluntness. But I still say you are wrong about scripture.
The abusers are also highly devout Christians. From the original article:
SO you can see that scripture + opportunism = carnage. Since you can’t eliminate human opportunism, you have to eliminate scripture. Simple as that.
Scripture can be replaced with compassion, rationality, and condemnation of all practices which worsen human suffering.
The Jesus myth offers us nothing we cannot do on our own. Give the Nigerians a secular humanist constitution, the rule of law, universal human rights, and access to a small fraction of their oil wealth. Draw on the tradition of great Nigerian humanist Tai Solarin and establish schools for the teaching of science, critical thought and reduction of superstition, and you will eliminate this problem in a way scripture never could.
Plus, throw the greedy bastard preachers in jail.
I see how you totally ignored that I said, Christians who don’t pray, read, study and discern the bible for themselves will not grow as Christians subjecting themselves to “devout ministers” like these.
Yes you partly right, I agree that the potential is always there but I disagree on the reason.
Scripture is perfect it is men who are imperfect because of our sin whether it takes the form of racism, superstition etc… That hinders many men intentionally or unintentionally from interpreting his perfect word correctly, none the less; it is our sin that causes our downfall.
Jesus is not a myth, there is enough evidence proving that he existed, the Muslims who do not believe he is the Son of God believe him to be a great prophet, the Jews believed him to be just man, a nutcase calling himself, “God” but they still believe he existed as well, he is in the Roman records as well. A man named Jesus did exist, now he being God and rising from the dead is another debate.
The Nigerians have way more problems than superstition, it is the widespread corruption and selfishness that puts Nigeria in the poverty stricken state they are today and if they were reading their bible they would see, â€œThou shall not stealâ€
As a Nigerian who has lived abroad for 2/3s of my life time I have had the privilege to access materials that I would have no hope of knowing exisited, much less obtaining for study purposes if I were still in Nigeria or anywhere on the Afrikan continent. I have spent much of this time in some form of academia studying that which we as Afrikans do not study….Afrikans (following my graduate studies). It is interesting to read what whites have to say about us. While reading King Leopold’s Ghost, I wondered where is the Afrikan voice, what were we thinking and doing during this time. Because our voice is heard through the white mans’ words we do not know ourselves as well as we should, and thereby our actions are often detrimental to us.
For 600 years the whites have been using Christianity against us and this is what it has come to. The Christians do not have a pipeline to God, God is not a Christian, and from all reports Jesus was a Jew, no doubt from Ethiopia home of the first Jews who are clearly Afrikan and black as was Jesus. Christians do not have exclusivity over the ‘devine principles’ which they call the 10 Commandments. These principles exist in all cultures outside of Christianity. Christianity is not a portal to heaven. When I die God will nto ask me about my religion, he only wants to know if I followed his devine principles, and if my deeds and intentions were good. Other than that God could not care less about my religion, or even if I have one. We do not need religion to guide us. We did quite fine without religion and with our spiritual beliefs for thousands of years. Since the introduction of Christianity and other foreign religions into our culture, ther has been chaos, confusion and greater rifts between us. Remember that the White Christians who brought us this relgion killed among their own whites in the name of God who seems to be a member of every team. These same Christians bored with themselves set out by boat to see what other people they could rape, maim, pillage and exploit. They sailed around the world with their bibles in one hand, ans a gun in the other. They left no people untouched, and no riches unexploited. Their book was Gods’ word as if God has reached down and written it himself. They condemned cultural practices of which they did not approve, and blamed it on God. They have turned us against ourselves having convinced us that we and our cultural ways are inherently evil, and that they only way we can save ourselve is through Christianity. When we have finally destroyed ouselves in the name of this Christian god, they will step in and take the last of our riches unopposed.
This is the 21st century when we are all supposed to be more enlightened, yet Christianity has turned us into a people more primitive than any time in our history on this earth. What do we have to fear in God, for God is good and compassionate (at least one would like to think). What we have to fear is in man who professes Gods’ word. Our children are our future, they are our greatest natural resource, and under no conditions would God condone this manner of treatment towards them. Such behaviour is an open invitation to Hell. Christianity has not meshed well with our tradional spiritual beliefs, or it has meshed too well and caused a mutation that has grown out of control.
The spirit world has always been an integral part of our daily lives. We have long held a respectful fear of it, and maintained the delicate balance between it and the physical world in which we live.
Christianity is the primary weapon that has been used to undermine us, and to see that it remains that way. We must not forget that it was the Catholic Church that first sanctioned slavery in Afrika, that led to the raping of our continent of its human, mineral and agricultural resources. Are our memories so short that we have forgotten this key fact? How else could the vatican, and europe have goten so rich, but through our free labor and mineral resources. Europe has no rubber, no gold, no diamonds, chromium, significant iron for weapons, ivory, copper, or the abundance of agricultural resouces that they stole from us. While they grew richer, we grew poorer. While they grew stronger, we grew weaker. In the words of Ernst Cole, an Azanian (South Afrika), from his photo documentary book House of Bondage (smuggled out od South Afrika in the raw undert apartheid), when the white man came we had the land, and he had the bible, now he has the land, and we have the bible.
Speaking of mineral resources, I am a Rivers woman, and that oil belonged to me before the whites knew that it existed or had a use for it. They had no right to it when it was discovered and they have no right to it now. Under other conditions I would tell a story of an encounted I had with a white man on his way to a briefing in Washington D.C. This man was formerly from apartheid South Afrika, now working for the US government, Global corporations and our own government. This is an oil related story and a dissertation without a happy ending for us.
Finally remember, when the white man came we had the land, and he had the bible, now he has the land and we have the bible. This is all part of their game plan. The Azanians still have not regained their land, mineral or agricultural resources, control over the police or military. They still live in the HOUSE OF BONDAGE.
Aseye, I wish all Africans saw things as clearly as you do about Christianity. It has been a scourge upon your continent.
The situation around Nigerian oil exports is shameful. I wonder how it happens that the oil money doesn’t go to the people of Nigeria? What’s wrong with the Nigerian government?
This is horrible. I don’t understand how these mothers can allow someone to do this to their children- it’s like that game, Silent Hill, is real. It almost makes me ashamed to be Christian. If my mother tried to do this to my little brother, I just might kill her. I’m too old to be considered a witch, anyway.
I hope all the victims who have lived will go on to live good lives. They have endured their limits of suffering.
It is interesting that some would dare to think that our salvation lies in bible scripture, or even in christianity, which in part has gotten us into this mess. Let’s take a moment and think. WE DO HAVE CRITICAL THINKING SKILLS, AND WE MUST LEARN TO USE THEM.
1. if not for the slave trade, our highly developed societies would have continued to develop and would not have been disrupted in the manner in which they were
2. those of our societies that had script would have continued to record our history from our perspective, and would have contiued to teach
3. clear evidence of #2 lies in the University of Timbuktu in Mali where texts survive in excess of 1000 years. Scholars came from as far as Europe to study in the university
4. since #3 is true (check the internet), it only stands to reason that we as Afrikans also studied at the University of Timbuktu under our own scholars, therefore many of our societies must have had script introduced from our learned scholars who attended the university, and we may have had a pre-existing script. Dr. C. Anta Diop of Senegal discovered just such a script in Senegal that bore parallels to Egypts’ Kemetic script
5. consider that a people who are under seige as we have been for the past 500 years (400 years of slave trade, 100 years of colonialism, and untold years of being berated by whites and indoctrinated by their religion, which is in no way superior to our own), cannot continue to develop, and worse yet, de-evolve in some sense of the word
6. now when one considers that whites once came to us for their education, be it in ancient Egypt (then Black, and definitely Afrikan) or the University of Timbuktu, and that Afrika not only the cradle of civilization, but the hub of education for europe, Greece in particular, it becomes clear that the level of our civilization/societies exceeded that of europe
7. all of that is to say this, there is nothing that the white man has culturally, spiritually or socially that is superior to our own. What he does have is the mastery of lies and deceit which over time have convinced us that we are in some way inferior to him, so we foresake that which is ours for that which he brings to us. Had we not lost our scholars to slavery we may have today an accurate record of our histories and traditional cultures, rather than the picture of inferiority that the whites have painted for us
8. PLEASE, stop for a moment and consider the religion and the book that we embrace so much. The so call christian values are not exclusive to christisnity, and existed long before it emerged. if we stop and think of our own tradition values we will see that they include these christian values, and preceded them by thousands of years. The whites replaced our educational systems with their own, they replaced our political systems with theirs, and our spiritual beliefs also with theirs. In short they supplanted the three core elements of any society with their own, thus effectively gaining control over us. It is through these three systems that we are effectively manipulated. Why do we condemn and disavow so many things Afrikan? It is not un-natural for a people to hate themselves as much as we hate ourselves, albeit, we will deny this every minute of everyday. All we must do is look to our actions in order to confirm this statement.
a) GOD is not a christian
b) God does not have a religion
c) Christians do not have a pipeline to God, all have access regardless of spiritual belief or religion
d) God gave all man a set of guidelines by which to live
e) when we die God will not ask us of our religion
f) Gods’ only concern is whether or not we followed the guidelines set forth, and wether our deeds
and intentions were good.
g) finally, man created religion in order to control and profit from man. God does not need money,
God does not want money. If anyone can prove to me that this is not true, I will gladly send
God money if you can provide me with his heavenly address and proof that it will be transported
It is the corrupt and greedy nature of some men, taught to others that has resulted in the misguided abuse of these children by their fearful parents. The ministers, prophets, and prophetesses who have guided them to commit such acts in the name of Christianity (which has a long and violent history), will surely go to hell if there is such a place, if not they will live well on earth. Obviously these people have no fear of God or his retribution for they continue to instill fear into the ignorant and profit handsomely from it. This holds true of all Christian ministers and such, who live well at the expense of those who follow them. It seems to me that this alone would alert us to the un-godly nature of these people, leading us to turn away from them. When our ignorant see them prosper, they erroneously believe that conversion to Christianity will bring them the same through blessings from God. God did not provide them with that wealth, the poor misguided followers made it possible through their monetary contributions and sacrifice. As for the rest of us who should know better, we are weak and have given into societal pressures which have now assigned a higher status to subscribing to Christianity than to the practice of our traditional beliefs.
There are flaws in all religions, and all spiritual beliefs. No one should be considered superior to the other. All share a common thread in their core values, making them all equal in that sense. In light of this we must consider that our own traditional spiritual beliefs have merit, and are much worthy of being preserved, lest we forever become slaves, bound to another people through their religion, education, political system and their perception of who we are as a people.