Religion as child abuse: evangelical pastors target child “witches” in Nigeria

21 01 2008
Evil witches, apparently. (Guardian)

In certain regions of Nigeria, diseases (such as HIV/AIDS, malaria, etc.), accidents, drunkenness, mental health problems, the smoking of marijuana, divorce, infertility and other misfortunes are generally blamed on witchcraft. And evangelical Christian churches are exploiting this superstition for material gain, charging up to three or four months the average working person’s salary for “deliverances.” Now the “prophets” have started naming children as witches, with horrifying consequences:

How Suspected Witches are Treated

  • Abandoned, isolated, discriminated, ostracized from the community
  • Taken to the forest and slaughtered
  • Disgraced publicly and murdered
  • Bathed in acid
  • Poisoned to death, often with a poisonous local berry (asire)
  • Buried alive
  • Chained and tortured in churches in order to extract confession

(Stepping Stones)

Guardian Film report here. Via The Good Atheist podcast.

UPDATE: More religion as child abuse at [GBG] Atheist News.


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7 responses

21 01 2008
Reed Braden

Where’s John Proctor’s voice of reason when you need it?

21 01 2008
wineymomma

Why do people feel the need to run to countries that have enough trouble already and add to the problems? I have always wanted to do missionary work but have been put off with the groups of people that I would have to be linked to/associated with in order to get into the areas.

22 01 2008
Bruce

I feel similarly to you, Wineymomma.

It’s similar on an Australian Domestic level. I have a love/disappointment (I don’t do hate) relationship with the Salvation Army. I’ve been a volunteer at one of their second hand shops and have done a few rounds of door knocking for past Red Shield Appeals.

Still, I get a bit irked when some of them lobby Government with unworkable ideas for drug rehab (much like Family First* policies incidentally). I suspect the motivations are a little different though – sure there is the knee jerk moralising about taking drugs and safe injecting rooms thus being wrong, but I also think that they also believe that a less liberal approach will work. I think this has got more to do with them being a bit more plain-speaking, proletariat types than the more academic Methodists from which they are an off-shoot.

Something that does impress me though is how their ministry/passive proselytism is (from anecdote) compartmentalised. I’ve seen some (misleading) pamphlets from the Right to Life movement in one of their op shops, however people doing community service (essentially labour provided by the state) or “Work for the Dole” participants (again labour provided by the state) aren’t compelled to disseminate the material, nor are state funds in any way used to prop up proselytism.

Their local family planning center (which receives state funds and supplementary funding from the Salvation Army) doesn’t even have anti-abortion materials in it (the last I checked) and the sex-education materials are secular (and coincidentally progressive). Aside from admin, the staff are all qualified social workers.

The beauty of it from my perspective is that this Church-State barrier within the Salvos didn’t get in the way of business and it didn’t need enforcing. It just seemed to come naturally to them.

Similarly, I have mixed feelings about missionaries in African nations. I don’t mind them giving pastoral/religious council along with the more social justice oriented activities, nor do I mind them abstaining from activities prohibited by their religion (e.g. I have no problems with nuns not handing out condoms).

What I do have a problem with are practices that positively deliver a demonstrable harm. Disinformation that says that condoms cause AIDS for example. Ostensibly I think we have in this case a modern day equivalent of some of the practices of the Spanish Inquisition; “I’ll save your soul in the process of killing you”. The only difference is that it works by the numbers and isn’t as up close and personal.

The thing that matters is the similarity; scaring people off from a perceived sin with lethal consequences.

This scenario with the “Child Witches” though is just utterly disturbing. It’s like the old up-close and personal approach of the old Inquisition. The developed west really needs to take responsibility for this by dragging offending missionaries back home and plonking them in jail cells.

* An Australian religious moderate-right party (it’s argued that we don’t have a substantial religious right in Australia, but I think it’s pish, it’s just that our religious right aren’t as right-wing as that in the US).

22 01 2008
wineymomma

I am in complete agreement with you on much of what you said, Bruce.

The entire idea of scaring someone from a behavior by threatening lethal consequence only works on the level of fear not learning. It makes it difficult for me to teach my monsters the concept of grace, something that is incredibly important to me and for them to learn.

My girl-monster’s teacher is in the practice of using fear of consequences in the classroom. Drives me batty! I don’t want to raise children that live fearfully of what might be coming up next!

23 01 2008
Sean the Blogonaut

Always the children and the weakest members of society that cop it hey?

29 02 2008
Kelli

There is a way you can help the children if you would like. I have been researching this for a while and have created a blog with information
and three petitions that can be signed protesting against the treatment of the children and the so called pastors that are extorting the parents of the
children. Please consider signing them for the children.

Children of Nigeria

http://childwitches.blogspot.com/

Thank you for posting this, the more the word about this gets out the better.

Thank you,
Kelli

3 06 2009
Janet Greene

This is horrifying! But not really surprising, I’m afraid. Christians have a long history of terrorizing people into conversion. From the Inquisition, to the Witch Trials, to wholesale slaughter of Canadian, American, and Austrialian natives. Canadian natives, or Aboriginals, were also subject to more than 100 years of residential schools. These Aboriginal children were kidnapped from their families, and forced to live in institutions where they were told that they were heathen and going to hell. They were terribly physically, mentally, psychologicaly and sexually abused. It has been a huge issue in Canada for years now. But christians often take advantage of “heathens” for gain, or to convert them to christ by force. This is not new! And it’s not just the catholics. Christians have a great deal of blood on their hands. I used to be an evangelical christian – my dad was a pastor. I’m embarrassed at how I used to view atheists as fodder for prostheletizing (sp?) rather than as people with another point of view. As an atheist myself now, I can’t believe how much better a person I’ve become. And I’m ashamed that I come from christianity.

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