by crossriverwatch admin
A Christian preacher who talks of hellfire and of how Satan inhabits children and turns them into witches. Tracy McVeigh has seen the results of the kind of beliefs that Helen Ukpabio preaches and thinks the pastor should be deported.
Helen Ukpabio runs an evangelical Christian organisation in West Africa called the Liberty Gospel Church. When she was consecrated the first “lady apostle” politicians and minor celebrities attended the ceremony.
Ukpabio is a self-styled “witch hunter” who has published her views around the demonic possession of children in several books and films. In one pamphlet she states that:
“If a child under the age of two screams in the night, cries and is always feverish with deteriorating health he or she is a servant of Satan.”
She doesn’t mention that these symptoms are quite common, they could be toothache, they could, in impoverished rural Nigeria, be malaria.
In the film, End of the Wicked, by Ukpabio’s film production company, Liberty Films, part of the Liberty Foundation Gospel Ministries franchise, child actors are shown to eat human flesh and murder their parents. She has defended the film as being fiction, just “like Harry Potter”.
What isn’t tackled in these films, books and sermons, is the huge problem of child abuse, abandonment and sometimes murder, that has happened in Nigeria and several other countries as a result of such beliefs that children can be possessed of demonic spirits.
In 2007 I went to Nigeria with photographer Robin Hammond for the Observer and we documented some of the horrific child abuses that had occurred there as a result of beliefs around witchcraft. Children whose parents or neighbours believed them to be demons were beaten and battered. I met a girl who had had acid poured over her lovely face and another who had had a nail driven into her head by people who wanted to exorcise them. We witnessed whole communities stand around hapless small children and tell us that they were evil and had to be made leave the area to fend for themselves. A charity, Stepping Stones Nigeria, which works with the victims of such child abuse in the Niger Delta, had hundreds of such stories from children it had taken in.
The following year, in 2008, a TV documentary crew followed in our footsteps and won several awards for covering the work of Stepping Stones, founded by Gary Foxcroft. There was such outcry that Akwa Ibom state made it illegal to accuse a child of witchcraft.
So, in the UK where we have knowledge of this, and have our own experiences of cases like that of Victoria Climbie, and where we stop Islamic hate preachers from entering the country, has Helen Ukpabio had three speaking engagements in London this weekend?
In response to Ukpabio’s arrival in the UK, Gary Foxcroft, executive director of the Witchcraft and Human Rights Information Network (WHRIN), called for the Home Secretary to deport the pastor.
“We believe that her presence in the UK is pursuant to section 3(5) of the Immigration Act 1971 on the basis that her presence here is not conducive to the public good and request that she is immediately deported and has her UK visa revoked,” he said. “There have been numerous cases of children in the UK being tortured and sometimes killed due to to the beliefs that Helen Ukpabio espouses. Horrific murder cases such as Victoria Climbié and Kristy Bamu were linked to the practices of pastors similar to Helen Ukpabio. We cannot afford to wait for another such case before the Government takes action to put a stop to such preachers.”
Ukpabio has not given any interviews since she has been in London and its not known how long she intends to stay. In the past she has always countered critics by saying she would never condone the harming of any child. She is a mother of three herself, a grandmother, and a Christian.
WHRIN believes that there is an urgent need for the activities of such pastors to be more closely regulated and monitored.
Ukpabio doesn’t advocate that people hurt their children. She says her critics undermine her church’s “right to practice their religion and the Christian religious belief in the existence of God, Jesus Christ, Satan, sin, witchcraft, heaven and hellfire.”
And religious freedom is of course a vital human right. But we make a mistake by seeing this kind of preaching as harmless or cultural and not taking action.
But even the slightest risk of one case of the kind of abuse I witnessed in the Niger Delta happening here because someone somewhere takes the idea of demonic possession too far, is more than enough reason in my mind to deny a visa to any preacher who claims that children can be witches.
Culled from The Guardian UK
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