• First published in 2004 as Bartholomew’s Notes on Religion (BNOR).

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    blogs.salon.com/0003494
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Opposition to Anti-Child Witchcraft Campaign in Nigeria

The campaign in Nigeria against the stigmatisation of children as witches by certain evangelists is facing some resistance; a few days ago the British Humanist Association reported that Nigerian sceptic Leo Igwe (who wrote a guest post for me in December) had been assaulted at a conference highlighting the problem:

As the anti-witchcraft conference began at around 10.30am…religious protestors dressed in orange raided the venue and began protesting loudly. The exremists were carrying a number of banners with slogans such as, “This protest is organised by The Akwa Ibim Government”, “We give freedom to the witches” and “Stepping Stone is not a registered organisation”.

Leo blames followers of the evangelist Helen Ukpabio for what happened.

Meanwhile, a hostel for children who have been abused and abandoned after being labeled as witches has been raided; the UK Daily Mirror reports:

The headquarters of Child Rights and Rehabilitation Network (CRARN), which works with the British fund Stepping Stones Nigeria, was raided by a group of men claiming to be police officers earlier this month.

CRARN president Sam Itauma, a winner at the recent Amnesty Awards in London, had to escape through the ceiling of his own home adjoining the care centre.

…It has since become apparent that the police were accompanied by a lawyer from Lagos, Gary [Foxcroft, founder of Stepping Stones Nigeria] says.

This is the same lawyer who has been representing Evangelist Helen Ukpabio in the law suits that she has filed against CRARN, Stepping Stones Nigeria and Channel Four since the broadcast of the internationally acclaimed documentary film – Saving Africa’s Witch Children.

Itauma’s wife was arrested, computer equipment was seized, and it is alleged that children were beaten by police when they objected. Ukpabio has stated that Itauma is a wizard, and that Stepping Stones exists simply to gain NGO money. The raid has apparently caused some embarrassment, and state governor Godswill Akpabio has now visited the hostel and announced a substantial donation.

Ukpabio’s followers aren’t too keen on my blog posts on the subject either (in particular here, here, and here), and some wonderfully florid insults have been received (“You are wicked, crooked, crafty, poisonous, and dangerous to women in general”, etc.).