Ukpabio’s Allies

As I blogged a few months ago, in August last year Helen Ukpabio was “consecrated” as an Apostle by Bishop N E Moses; Moses used the opportunity to denounce those who had criticised her teaching on the existence of child witches, as he ranted about “Witches attacking! Wizards attacking! “Atheists attacking!” He also praised members of Ukpabio’s church for disrupting a conference on the problem of children stigmatised as witches.

The “consecration” was well-attended by Ukpabio’s supporters and by her associates in the film business. A number of religious leaders gave their backing to the event, and  a handbill for the consecration service carries some names and photos (although mostly illegible, the names can be discerned when cross-referenced with another advert). They are:

Prelate Isaiah Isong [founder of Christ Believers Assembly]

Bishop Jonas Katung [of Maranatha Covenant Church, Jos]

Bishop [Leonard] Kawas [of World Harvest Ministries Inc]

Bishop Elkanah Hanson [of El Shaddai Ministries, Port Harcourt]

Bishop Victor Uzosike [General Overseer of Kingdom Life Gospel Church (Destiny Chapel), the church arm of Gospel Outreach Ministries]

Bishop Mike Laju [of Mike Laju Ministries and The MOG Ministries]

Also mentioned is “Rev Dr Daniel Bassey

The consecration was preceded by a week-long event called “Empowerment for Greater Service” at Ukpabio’s church, with a similar line-up that includes two more people:

Bishop Godwin Okafor

Comdr. Ezekiel Duke

There were also fellow-pastors from her “Liberty Gospel” church; as I noted in February, a newspaper report mentioned

Eyo Nkute, Louis Oku, Excellence Sambo, and Alobi Ofuka – superintendents of the church in Port Harcourt, Lagos, Abuja, and Enugu, respectively.

On her website, Ukpabio states that:

Unlike other ministries where witches and wizards are beaten or stoned to death, Liberty is the only Ministry that shows mercy to witches. No matter the degree and level of the witchcraft, deliverance is certain through Helen Ukpabio’s ministration. In dealing with witchcraft possessed persons, the deliverance is conducted in a very easy and mild way that one may wonder if at all it will work. Of course it works so perfectly. The process of delivering witches is mild that she doesn’t even lay her hands on them yet all will be delivered. She can minister to one thousand witches at the same time and all will be delivered at the same time. This is a mystery.

…It is only in Helen’s Ministry that witches have been stopped, delivered and cleared to worship God without projecting any longer to any demonic realm or circles. If you are a witch, smile, get in contact with the woman of God for your deliverance – free of charge.

This is her defence against the claim that she harms children. But of course, it’s not as simple as that: Ukpabio has used her influence to cause trouble for a hostel protecting stigmatised children, and children are suffering because of the very idea that a child can cause misfortune by “projecting” a “demonic realm”. Ukpabio’s method of deliverance may milder than forms found elsewhere, but not everyone who sees her films or reads her books will be able to come to her church in person – and even a “mild” deliverance for “witchcraft possession” is based on something which is simply not true. The suffering of children on account of witch-stigmatisation will come to an end only when it becomes impossible to take the idea of “child-witches” seriously. It doesn’t require “atheism” or “humanism” to see that the teaching is harmful and absurd, just a bit of reason – a human capacity available to humanists, Christians, and followers of other religions. Why is it that Ukpabio encounters “one thousand witches at the same time” at her church, when hundreds of thousands of other churches around the world have no such experience? Or anything even approaching it?

Christian leaders in Nigeria (and beyond) could play a significant positive role in ending witch-stigmatisation. There’s nothing in the Bible which says that misfortune or illness can be caused by children “projecting a demonic realm”, and it is their duty to make that clear.

Those who endorse Ukpabio are part of the problem. And those who perhaps privately have reservations, but are reluctant to create a public controversy, need to consider whether they really deserve to be in a leadership position.