The Witch Children of Nigeria and Helen UkpabioBlack and white issue of human rights, or ethnocentrism?
In Nigeria the hunt for witch children is on. In order toprotect themselves from the devil, parents areabandoning, torturing, and even murdering theirchildren while trying to exorcise their demons. In thelast decade 15,000 children have been accused ofwitchcraft and 1,000 of them have been murdered . 1
Several methods of exorcism include beating children, settingthem on fire, burying them alive, and pouring acid down their throats. one woman even tried to saw off the top of her daughters skull1.http://takeovercontrol.wordpress.com/category/ancientafricanreligion/witchcraft-child-abuse/
The woman credited with leadingthis movement is a Pentecostalpreacher named Helen Ukpabio.She preaches about the dangersof witch children, how to identifythem, and how to exorcise them.Thousands attend hermeetings, including famousNollywood actors and politicians2.She has made many videos on thesubject, her most famous beingEnd of The Wicked3. http://graphics8.nytimes.com/images/2010/05/22/ world/22beliefs-cnd/22beliefs-cnd-articleLarge.jpg
In her book Unveiling theMysteriesOf Witchcraft, Helen Ukpabioidentifies some ways to identifywitch children. Some of thesesignsare a child under two crying outin the night, or a child beingfrequently sick or feverish2.Becauseof her writings, films, andinfluence she has been labeledas the head of the witchhunt, and international outcry hasbeen focused mostly at her. http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_oRIVhuoSpJU/SxfIUZjBd 9I/AAAAAAAAAKo/xOTr54TTNa8/s320/Unveiling-
http://www.positivepins.com/big/aabuse22.jp g http://naij anedu.co m/wp- content/u ploads/2 011/06/wi tch- children1 .jpgIn the West there are organizations devoted to protecting children; thegovernment views them as helpless and innocent. if an infant is crying it isdeemed normal behavior, and the idea of burying a crying baby alive issomething that makes most Westerners cringe. Western culture in general doesnot accept the idea of witchcraft or possession, But Does this mean HelenUkpabio deserves such hostility from outsiders?
Helen Ukpabio has said that while witches are real, the movie shemade was fictionalized and denies responsibility for the harm tochildren entirely1. She also believes the protests against her in theWest are due to racism. She asks if we think Harry Potter is real, andsays that the only reason Westerners view her differently than J.K.Rowling is because she is African2.
Is Helen Ukpabio right, are Western opinions of hercolored by views of Africa? While the harm being doneto these children is a civil rights issue, is our initialreaction to these events fair? Do Western feelings ofanger and superiority stem from a higher moralground, because we are "right", or from our own biasand culture? When most Westerners have no ideawhat it would be like to raise children in Nigeria, is itfair to say "that would never happen here"? Is itacceptable to blame and hate an African preacher forchild abuse because she wrote about and mademovies depicting child witches while J.K.Rowling, author of Harry Potter, is celebrated andricher than the Queen of England ? Is it justified anger 4or just ethnocentrism?
Citations1Katharine Houreld, "African Children Denounced As Witches By Christian Pastors", Huffington Post 18 Oct. 2009 http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/10/18/african-children- denounce_n_324943.html2Mark Oppenheimer, "On a Visit to the U.S., a Nigerian Witch Hunter Explains Herself", NY Times 21 May 2010 http:// www.nytimes.com/2010/05/22/us/22beliefs.html3Occult Profiles: Helen Ukpabio, the "Witch" Hunter of Children 23 Nov. 2011 http://parasearcher.blogspot.com/2011/11/ occult-profiles-helen-ukpabio-child.html4"JK Rowling Richer than Queen ", BBC News 27 April 2003 http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/2979033.stm