By Ilam Patricia and Deborah Obot
The Basic Rights Council Initiative (BRCI), a nongovernmental organisation has called for an end to paranormal beliefs that often lead to the abuse of children in Cross River State.
Paranormal beliefs the BRCI argued, have been used as excuses to harm children in the State and it was time for a solution to mitigate its impact.
“Paranormal beliefs are the beliefs in supernatural existence, with examples such as beliefs in deities, witches and the ability to influence the physical being,” the BRCI program manager, Mr. Kebe Ikpi said during the non competitive event in Calabar which is the third debate series organised by the NGO as a means to train staff on the issue and pass out the message.
“This is our way of breaking the culture of silence. We are using the debate to bring to the fore things that should influence policy and laws on child protection in Cross River State, the country and the world,” Mr. Ikpi said.
The debaters were Victor Mkpe, Gideon Onah, Patrick Benblag and Godswill Isek. They argued on the topic: “The Belief In Witchcraft And Its Impact On The Development Of The Child.”
Mr. Isek argued that despite the fact witchcraft branding and victimisation of children was bad, there was need to mitigate its impact which is tackling the issue of physical violence against them.
“We stand against all forms of physical abuse,” he said, adding that: “There are other forms of child molestation that exists. So even if we say we regret the existence of paranormal beliefs and we say because of the existence of paranormal beliefs or witchcraft value no longer exists, will that stop the child from being molested? If that won’t stop the child from being molested, it means that in its core form, paranormal belief can still thrive peacefully without any form of molestation whatsoever.”
Isek who said attempting to change the narrative via the imposition of an ideology will fail, said the best way was to tackle the challenge using the system.
“Beliefs and norms are crucial elements of the identities of individuals and as such should be treated with utmost care, and diligence as a manhandling of such a fragile aspect of humanity’s existence could prove very costly for societal peace. Moves that tend to disprove something as pivotal to a group of people’s existence such as religion, can create so much chaos and rancor in the society, and as such it is not a reasonable move to take.
“The quest to prove ideological superiority has been the hatching point of series of religious killings and the destruction of lives and properties. But sadly, people never really change their ideological stances. Whatever has a bad side has a good, and what validates the credibility of the existence of such a concept, is whether it’s benefit outweighs the harms,” he said.
“You tackle the problem with the system and not jettison the system in its entirety. Take the human body as a system. The best thing to do is not to take off your head because you are having headache, it is to treat the headache that is disturbing you and still use the head to do better things in the society. You can’t use a spiritual problem to solve a physical problem,” he added.
Also, Isek argued that religion had also contributed to the challenge of paranormal beliefs which have negative impacts on children but explained that the challenge was extremism in its application.
“What should we reject? Extremism of any kind and the misuse of religion by charismatic leaders to swindle and feed on the vulnerability of humans to religion.
“People should have the freedom to believe anything whatsoever they choose to believe to the extent when the expression of such beliefs do not infringe on societal peace and cohesion. If you do, the hands of the law will get you punished,” he said.
He further argued that aside religion, some cultures are “grossly barbaric.”
In his argument, Mr. Mkpe averred that: “The moment your belief, believes to victimize someone else, that is bad. Whether you don’t belief in Christianity, Islam or whatsoever or any form of paranormal belief to the point where another person’s life is infringed on, then we think that belief of yours is actually bad, that is what we think today’s debate is all about.”
For Benblag, paranormal beliefs have both intrinsic and extrinsic effects on children.
“There are easier ways to solve the problem. If the belief is intrinsically bad, the best solution is to take the problem away,” Benblag said, adding that there was not need to, “suffer not a witch to live.”
On how the society can change, he said that: “I can’t impose things in the society. So for society, as personal breed, you have the moral obligation to advocate for what is right irrespective of how long it takes for us to eradicate those things, that is something that is very good. But let us not enforce the narrative and make it a norm in the society.”
And, Mr. Kebe in his closing remarks said children should never suffer due to anyone’s belief or disbelief.
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