The NSS says No to witch-hunters

The National Secular Society has called on the Home Secretary to deny David Oyedepo entry into the UK.

David Oyedepo Jnr is due to address a Winners Chapel International convention in Dartford on 13-16 August. In a letter to the Home Secretary the National Secular Society argued that preventing Mr Oyedepo from entering the country is a necessary step to tackle child abuse linked to faith or belief.

In 2011 Mr Oyedepo was captured on video assaulting a young girl at one of his ministration events in Nigeria. After [he accuses] the girl of being a witch, she can be heard saying she is a “witch for Jesus”. Mr Oyedepo then slaps her around the face and denounces her as evil.

Assault dressed up in the regalia of religion: few things are more dangerous.

In 2006 a Government report – Child Abuse Linked to Accusations of “Possession” and “Witchcraft” – highlighted the risk of abuse against children in Britain accused of being witches.

Recent guidance written by the Metropolitan police advises social workers that “children believed to be possessed by evil spirits or believed to be witches are at clear and immediate risk of significant harm”.

Although cases of child abuse linked to a belief in spirit possession or witchcraft are uncommon in the UK, such abuse can lead to extreme physical and emotional abuse and to child deaths. The cases of Victoria Climbie, Kristy Bamu and Ikpomwosa, whose torso was recovered from the Thames, were all child deaths linked to this belief system.

David Oyedepo Ministries International website makes clear that child “disobedience” should be regarded as a sign of “witchcraft”. It states:

“As far as God is concerned, disobedience is as terrible as witchcraft. 1 Samuel 15:23a says: For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. May God not catch you as a witch. His Word also says, “Do not suffer a witch to live” (Exodus 22:18). If you are not bringing up your children in the way they should go, you are cutting short the number of your days. Receive grace from God now, to be obedient to this commandment on child training in Jesus’ name. …”

David Oyedepo Jnr’s father, Bishop Oyedepo, founded Winners’ Chapel in 1981 after claiming to have had an 18 hour vision from God. The Church has since become a global network of churches with congregations in 34 countries and Forbes estimates his worth at $150 million.

Keith Porteous Wood, executive director of the National Secular Society, said: “Those being denounced as “possessed”, particularly children, are in great, sometimes mortal, danger. Denying Mr Oyedepo entry would send a powerful signal to pastors and churches that “witch hunting” will not be tolerated in the UK.”

I hope the Home Secretary listens.

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