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More from CNN on Pastors and Child-Witches in Africa

CNN’s Connect the World has broadcast the second part of its series on children who are being stigmatised as witches in Africa, focusing on the role of pastors [UPDATE: video here]. The programme drew on the 2008 documentary Saving Africa’s Witch-Children, which I blogged on here, and we saw once again the sad sight of Mary, the terrified young girl who was threatened with death by angry villagers who thought she had poisoned their food by witchcraft.

Helen Ukpabio’s church featured, although she avoided an interview request. I mentioned yesterday that Ukpabio  has tried to have the hostel where Mary now lives shut down, accusing its director of being a “wizard”. As I’ve noted before, she differentiates herself from other pastors who claim to be able to diagnose witchcraft, in that she claims that only a simple and mild “deliverance” session is required to cure a child. However, as CNN noted, her teaching, as expressed in films such as End of the Wicked, has spread far beyond her church. The report also had an interview with Lucky Inyang, who works for the charity Stepping Stones Nigeria – he makes the point that children are cast out by their parents after deliverance fails. This means that Ukpabio’s teachings remain toxic: her “deliverance” sessions will have no beneficial effect on adults who have suffered misfortune, and so children will continue to be blamed.

There was also an interview with Mags Gavan, who directed Saving Africa’s Witch-Children. Gavan expressed her annoyance “that churches haven’t spoken out against this”, and urged churches ” to stand up”. She also noted that many pastors are conspicuously wealthy, and called for more pastors to be arrested and convicted. CNN did have a brief quote from Pastor Celestine Effiong, who denounces accusing children as witches as ignorant, but he appears to be a lone figure. I’ve made the point before now that some of these pastors – including Ukpabio – are part of a global neo-Pentecostal movement, and that their counterparts in the West ought to intervene.

The third part is tomorrow, and looks at how local authorities in Akwa Ibom have been dealing with the problem – and it doesn’t look encouraging. According to Aniekan Umanah, the state’s Information Commissioner, as quoted on the CNN website:

“There may be problems yes but it’s been blown out of proportion and people are capitalizing, on what ordinarily may be a social problem, across the globe in painting Akwa Ibom state black — that is the aspect we say no to. We will not allow the image of our state to be smeared.”