When we turn a blind eye

The RDF has posted an article by Leo Igwe about Helen Ukpabio’s lawsuit and the wider trend in African Christianity that she is only a small part of.

[T]here is an emerging poisonous trend in African Christianity which if not nipped in the bud risks returning Britain to a growth in practices last widely witnessed in the dark ages. The signs are clear. The recent cases of witchcraft related abuse of children in Black communities can be traced back to the practice of this brand of Christianity. So this must be opposed and those who peddle this religious barbarism and who wish to import or encourage it in the UK must be stopped.

This Africanized Christianity contradicts human rights, and civilized values. It contains forms and currents of Christian practice which Western Christianity had abandoned decades and centuries ago. It seeks to turn back the clock on the evolution of a more ‘enlightened religion’ and of the recognition of broadly secular values in UK society. British humanists must resist this vicious brand of Christianity. British humanists should mobilize and come out strongly, critically and vociferously against such dark age Christianity.

Leo says there’s a movement of African pastors to re-introduce Christianity back to the West, the idea being that the West has lost the plot and no longer does Christianity properly, i.e. it does it without all the homophobia and witch-hunting and other reactionary baggage, and the African pastors can nudge the West back into doing it the right way.

But they also do it for the cha-ching.

In April, Ukpabio was in the UK to promote her witch finding ministry. She desperately wants to connect her witchcraft market with the European religious market. She has attempted to establish branches of her churches in the US. But Ukpabio is not the only African pastor scheming to re-Christianize the West. Other Christian clerics are already part of this reverse missionary process. Early this year, Nigerian homophobic pastor and the general overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, Rev Enoch Adeboye toured Australia and New Zealand to inaugurate branches of his church.

In August, the UK authorities denied entry to another witch hunting pastor David Oyedepo. Oyedepo is the owner of Winners Chapel. He is known to be the richest pastor in Africa, owning several private jets. During a deliverance session in Nigeria he slapped a girl whom he accused of being a witch. In Cameroon a nine year old girl collapsed and died after a pastor at a branch of Winners Chapel accused her of being possessed by numerous demons and started conducting a ritual exorcism.

There’s money in witch-hunting – money for the pastors, and misery and death for the victims. Speak up and resist, Leo says.

Churches that promote these abusive practices have no place in contemporary Britain. Pastors who own these churches should be told clearly that they are not welcome; that their brand of Christianity is unacceptable and particularly so in modern day Britain. We cannot realize a secular country when we allow African Pentecostal pastors to come and spread their gospel of hate and violence. When we turn a blind eye or tolerate the induction of witchcraft narratives into black migrant or diasporic communities we insult the memory of Kristy Bamu, Victoria Climbié and other child victims of witchcraft related abuse.

So let’s do the opposite of turning a blind eye.


  1. says

    money for the pastors, and misery and death for the victims

    Medieval European witch-hunts were also a sort of unofficial wealth transfer mechanism. It was no coincidence that many witches were found in the newly nascent middle class, though, strangely witchcraft almost never manifested among the nobility. There were also a number of witches that were most likely land-grabs or flat-out punishment: you said “no” to a roll in the hay, so you get accused of witchcraft. In other words, it’s a fairly straightforward manifestation of power against the weak.

  2. quixote says

    I wish I knew what gives people like Leo the strength to do what they do. Then maybe I’d know where to find some of it. What a great human being.

    He’s only wrong about one thing. Those churches don’t belong anywhere.

    What is the attraction of those horrible beliefs? That it’s so much safer (for the mob) to dump on some little girl than the kleptocrat actually ruining their lives?

  3. Jenora Feuer says

    Anybody who has spent much time inside the Anglican Communion (my mother was church secretary at a local Anglican church in Canada for a few years before the politics got too much) should not be surprised by this at all. The more conservative churches in the U.S. have already split off from the ‘main’ Episcopal churches, and many of the African Anglican churches have been a giant stew of things like this for decades.

    The last Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, deserves some credit for bringing much of this to public view, and scorn for his wishy-washy attempts at pleasing everyone, putting unity of the Church above what appear to have been his own opinions on the matter. (He was a lot more actively supportive of LGBT groups before he became archbishop and it became his job to be the official voice.)

  4. johnthedrunkard says

    As ever, it is only AFTER blood is spilled and scandal forced to the surface that the cry that ‘they aren’t reeeeaaalll Christians’ raises.

    From Jim Jones through Fred Phelps to ISIS, the absolute inability of religious authorities to stand for any actual values demonstrates the emptiness of religious claims of morality.

  5. Ohtobide says

    ‘last widely witnessed in the dark ages’?

    It would be nice to think so, but the witch hunts took place in England mainly in the 17th Century. They were not a product of ancient ways of thinking but of the modern era, the Renaissance, the Reformation.

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