Humanists to Hold an Anti-witchcraft Conference in Uyo

In October (21-22) humanists will be meeting in Uyo, the capital of Akwa Ibom State, for yet another conference on witch hunt and child abuse This is the second antiwitchcraft program to be organized by the Nigerian Humanist Movement (NHM) this year. In July, NHM cosponsored with Steppingstones Nigeria a public symposium in Calabar on Witchcraft and Child Rights. The October meeting, sponsored by the International Humanist and Ethical Union, will be held at the University of Uyo Commmunity Centre. The Governor of Akwa Ibom state, Chief Godswill Akpabio is expected to declare it open.

The theme of the conference is Witch hunt, Christian Fundamentalism and Child Abuse. In the past 10 years, there has been an upsurge in witchcraft accusation, persecution and killing of children in Akwa Ibom State and in other states across Nigeria. Witchcraft is an age-old traditional belief and predates the advent of Christianity and Islam to Nigeria. People accused of witchcraft, in most cases women and the aged, are persecuted or suffer displacement or extrajudicial killing in communities across Nigeria.

But today what is going on in Akwa Ibom state and most parts of the country is a wave of witch hunts driven, aided and abetted by Christian fundamentalism. Pastors brand innocent children witches and wizards or force them to confess to be so. Children alleged to be witches are subjected to torture and inhuman and degrading treatment in the name of exorcism. Churches incite parents and family members to abuse, beat, kill or abandon innocent kids accused of witchcraft. Many children alleged to be witches have been chained, starved, beaten or lynched. Unfortunately the response of the government, including the police authorities, has been slow and inadequate. This is mainly because local officials and security agents believe in witchcraft and are afraid of witches and wizards.

This conference is organised to provide a humanist response to the problem of witch hunt and Christian fundamentalism in Akwa Ibom and in Nigeria at large. The organisers are putting in place adequate security arrangements for our guests and participants – particularly in the light of the attack in Calabar by Christian fanatics from the Liberty Gospel Church.

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