Sunday, November 9, 2008

'Child-witches' of Nigeria seek refuge


This is a very disturbing story...

"Any Christian would look at the situation that is going on here and just be absolutely outraged that they were using the teachings of Jesus Christ to exploit and abuse innocent children," says Mr Foxcroft whose expose of what he describes as "an absolute scandal" will be screened in a Channel 4 documentary on Wednesday.

Post Script 10/11/08 - as this article says, a Government-funded report in 2006 found 38 cases of this kind of abuse in the UK. If there were 38 known cases, imagine how many were unknown to authorities.

Many. Two charities are donating £450,000 to help African children in the UK who are accused of witchcraft and abused.

Anticant (see comment below) is right - the Victoria Climbie case was one of them (a little girl tortured to death in the UK by her relatives - 128 separate injuries on her body on the day she died). For some reason, the religious aspect of the Climbie case was not widely reported in the media. The relatives who killed Victoria were consulting the pastor of the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God (based in Finsbury Park - regular congregations of 500+) for advice, even just days before she died.

The pastor was certainly a great help (as BBC reports):

The youngster was taken to a "deliverance from witchcraft" service before seeing the pastor the next day.

The trio returned to the church five days later - the day before Victoria's death.

On this visit the pastor admitted to the inquiry he had suspicions the young girl was being neglected.

He described how Victoria's eyes were opening and closing as though she was fainting, and she was cold and wet [...]

Asked what the demons were making her do, he said: "Wetting herself, soiling the whole house, prostituting herself (in the Ivory Coast), putting faeces in food and cockroaches on everything she could find."

He said at the time he believed the little girl was possessed.

"Possession is something we learn from the Bible. I generally do not question the Bible," he said.


Post post script 10th Nov.08

One moral I think we can again draw here is, whatever the merits of religion - and it has some! - it does have this extraordinary ability to get educated, "civilized" people to believe and do very stupid - and indeed cruel - things. What other kind of belief system could get modern British citizens to torture children - even torture them to death - while thinking they were doing the right thing? There's certainly something "special" about religion - something that ought to make us treat it with very great care (like nuclear power, I suggest)

Climbie's murders were presented by the press as inhuman monsters. The truth is they were probably just very frightened and confused people (imagine how scared you would feel if you genuinely believed there was a demon living in your house - in the body of your niece) whose religious convictions took them down into a spiral of faith-driven cruelty - the more they abused Victoria, the more disturbed and "possessed" she seemed, requiring still more desperate measures of abuse to help her, until finally Victoria was dead. The fact that they were clearly desperately seeking help from their Church right to the end has my tears welling up in pity, not just for Victoria, but for them.

Post post post script 11th Nov - ok the Aunt and Manning were sadistic arseholes. Maybe they don't deserve any pity at all. The "possession" element does seem to have been a factor, nevertheless (as it certainly is in many cases of abuse even in the UK).

Correction: the report from the DFES available here makes it clear the 38 cases officially identified were from Jan 2000 to 2006, not just 2006. These were weeded out from an original 74 cases.

43 comments:

Paul P. Mealing said...

Amazing story in the 21st Century. In any other part of the world, this would be called extortion.

To quote former Australian Prime Minister, Malcolm Fraser: 'Evil always arises when all of society's ills are blamed on one group of people.' But what sought of perversion is it to blame children, and then to justify it in the name of Christianity. 'Shocked' is not strong enough word.

Surely UNICEF can do something, one would hope.

Regards, Paul.

Kosh3 said...

Belief in witchcraft is of course a widely occurring phenomenon. It receives biblical support of course (that it exists, and that it is evil), but it is also found outside of Christian belief systems.

anticant said...

This is nothing new. It happens in the UK. Remember Victoria Climbie.

But of course our politically correct, faith-kowtowing government tells us we mustn't criticise these peoples' beliefs because they are RELIGIOUS and deserve 'respect'. The unfortunate practices which result from these beliefs are just misunderstandings on the part of otherwise good, well-intentioned people [who must be good, because they believe in God].

What bunkum! The concept of primitive barbarism seems to have passed out of the public consciousness. You can get away with almost anything these days if you dress it up as religion.

In my view this is one of the most serious moral issues of our times. Not least because many professing Christians no longer care to confront real evils - they are too absorbed in wittering on about sex.

The following looks interesting - Stephen and others might like to attend:

http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/7924

jeremy said...

“During many ages there were witches. The Bible said so. The Bible commanded that they should not be allowed to live. Therefore the Church, after doing its duty in but a lazy and indolent way for eight hundred years, gathered up its halters, thumbscrews, and firebrands, and set about its holy work in earnest. She worked hard at it night and day during nine centuries and imprisoned, tortured, hanged, and burned whole hordes and armies of witches, and washed the Christian world clean with their foul blood.

“Then it was discovered that there was no such thing as witches, and never had been. One does not know whether to laugh or to cry. Who discovered that there was no such thing as a witch—the priest, the parson? No, these never discover anything. At Salem, the parson clung pathetically to his witch test after the laity had abandoned it in remorse and tears for the crimes and cruelties it had persuaded them to do. The parson wanted more blood, more shame, more brutalities; it was the unconsecrated laity that stayed his hand. In Scotland the parson killed the witch after the magistrate had pronounced her innocent; and when the merciful legislature proposed to sweep the hideous laws against witches from the statute book, it was the parson who came imploring, with tears and imprecations, that they be suffered to stand.

“There are no witches. The witch text remains; only the practice has changed. Hell fire is gone, but the text remains. Infant damnation is gone, but the text remains. More than two hundred death penalties are gone from the law books, but the texts that authorized them remain.

“Is it not well worthy of note that of all the multitude of texts through which man has driven his annihilating pen he has never once made the mistake of obliterating a good and useful one? It does certainly seem to suggest that if man continues in the direction of enlightenment, his religious practice may, in the end, attain some semblance of human decency.”

--Mark Twain, excerpt from “Bible Teaching and Religious Practice,” 1923

Stephen Law said...

That's a great quotation - thanks very much Jeremy.

Tony Lloyd said...

I think there is a “third problem of evil”. The logical problem of evil we are all familiar with. The “God of Eth” poses the empirical problem of evil. There is also the epistemological problem of evil. The people committing these crimes are deeply religious. Whilst there are many phoney preachers, there are many genuine ones pushing this. The Inquisition may have been populated by sadists, but they were deeply devout and well educated sadists. The Southern Baptists, for many years, found biblical authorisation for slavery. The epistemological problem of evil is not that people can do evil (the logical problem), nor that they can do so much of it (the empirical problem) but that many do not know that they are doing evil at all.

What is the point of a religion that doesn't even tell you that torturing children to death is wrong?

Kyle said...

This seems to be a rather biased reading of the Victoria Climbie case.

It seems unlikely that the influence of the church in this case provoked the abuse. Afterall, there were no charges brought against the pastor of their church. It sounds like the abusers were covering up their abuse by tellling him it was a possession, just like they seem to have used medical history as a cover up when speaking to the doctors in the hospital.

Also, you say that religion gets educated people to do evil things. I think it is a lack of education that is leading to these attrocities. Although, I do think that on balance you agree with me about that, from some other things you have said.

anticant said...

kyle [I'm not sure which one you are, but presumably the religious one]:

It is lack of proper education which causes people to continue believing in the "truth" of religion in this day and age.

There is absolutely no credible evidence that the "supernatural" actually exists, or that there really are gods.

However "good" people - whether supposedly educated or uneducated - are, if they continue believing this nonsense they are doing the human race a disservice.

It's time for you, the Rev Sam, and all the other religious people posting here to acknowledge that it is we, the unbelievers, who occupy the moral high ground - not you.

If for no other reason, because we respect and value truth, which you do not.

MrFreeThinker said...

"There is absolutely no credible evidence that the "supernatural" actually exists, or that there really are gods."
Ok putting aside the fact that people have presented evidence, why do we need evidence? Couldn't there be valid ways of knowing something without evidence?

"It's time for you, the Rev Sam, and all the other religious people posting here to acknowledge that it is we, the unbelievers, who occupy the moral high ground - not you."
Do you believe in a form of objective morality?
By what basis can you say that your morality [I presume you are a humanist], is better than the Christian one?

anticant said...

Matthew 7.16

Stephen Law said...

Kyle said:

"It seems unlikely that the influence of the church in this case provoked the abuse. Afterall, there were no charges brought against the pastor of their church. "

I didn't say the church provoked the abuse. Or imply it. I don't think it did. I did say there was a strong religious element to the abuse, though.

Kyle: "It sounds like the abusers were covering up their abuse by telling him it was a possession..."

You are saying that the abusers did not think Victoria was possessed, they were just using this as an excuse to torture her.

But (i) you provide no evidence for this, you just raise it as a possibility, and (ii) You are suggesting they expected to be caught, and came up with the religious "possession" story to save their skins? But of course (1) it wouldn't save their skins, (2) why, if they wanted to avoid being caught, would they take the clearly abused Victoria to their pastor, risking he'd report them?, (3) why, if they really were concerned about their own safety, did they then go on to actually kill her? How was that helping them?

Truth is you suggestion makes no sense of what they did at all, whereas the fact that they thought she was possessed fits perfectly, and indeed, fits with what we know about people coming from that part of the world - that they really do believe in possession, and indeed there were 38 officially-known cases of "possession"-driven abuse in the UK 2006.

I find your reaction - implying it really wasn't religion at all - kind of shocking, because it requires such a twisted pro-religious mind set even to suggest it!

wombat said...

Stephen - You said "What other kind of belief system could get modern British citizens to torture children"

I think it is worth pointing out that they were hardly "modern British citizens" in anything other than a formal sense. I recommend a look at the official inquiry website
Kouao was born in the Ivory Coast and did not it seems move to Britain until 1991. It seems she had a record of criminality beforehand in the form of benefit fraud and had used a false passport to get Victoria into Britain, possibly with her possible use in more fraud in mind.

That Kouao was hardly a model citizen to start with does not let religion off the hook. A look through the transcripts shows witnesses saying thing like this (from one MS Amamoo, Director of the African Families Foundation,)

"You see, there have been -- there are some particular churches in the community where cases of abuse have occurred but it has been overlooked because it is religion and we do not want to go into that"

This is religions other great power - to encourage otherwise compassionate people to turn a blind eye.

mikemathew said...

Mary is a pretty five-year-old girl with big brown eyes and a father who kicked her out onto the streets in one of the most dangerous parts of the world. Her crime: the local priest had denounced her as a witch and blamed her "evil powers" for causing her mother's death. Mary was found by a British charity worker and today lives at a refuge in Akwa Ibom province with 150 other children who have been branded witches, blamed for all their family's woes, and abandoned. Before being pushed out of their homes many were beaten or slashed with knives, thrown onto fires, or had acid poured over them as a punishment or in an attempt to make them "confess" to being possessed. In one horrific case, a young girl called Uma had a three-inch nail driven into her skull.
_______________________________
mikemathew
word-of-mouth

Kyle said...

Stephen,

I don't know what the value is of debating this one case, because I don't think that religious people have never done evil things. However, I think it is going well beyond what we know to say that religion played a major role in Victoria Climbie's death.

You object that on my understanding the abusers behaviour wasn't rational - it wasn't rational. I don't think they had a well worked out plan about how they could get away with it.

What I am claiming is that just like when they were in hospital they attributed her injuries to scabbies, when in a church they used possession to cover up the abuse. This was not a well thought through, or entirely rational plan.

I expect that the abusers carried out their horrific acts without much thought to the consequences for themselves.

I realise that I'm coming from a rather biased position, as you are, but I don't think that you are justified in saying that religion was clearly the main driver in this case.

If it was wouldn't you expect some of the other witnesses in the enquiry to mention possession? It's only the people in the church who mention it, not even the abusers mention it in their trial or the enquiry. If it did play a big role wouldn't you expect someone else to raise it.

Also, why didn't the newspapers mention more about it? Unless you think there was a cover up?

When you start to enter into the 'New Atheist' mindset it becomes easy to see religion at the heart of all the world's evil.

Stephen Law said...

Following on from the prior post - I shouldn't suggest, of course, that Victoria's death was ALL down to religion - her carers were clearly sadistic. Perhaps I get a bit close to suggesting that in the above post. I can't see much reason to doubt there was a significant religious element though.

Stephen Law said...

Kyle - sorry our posts crossed. You maybe right - perhaps it was less of a factor than I am supposing in this case.

The fact that it was not mentioned by the parents maybe due to the fact that it wouldn't be an excuse, or be taken remotely seriously.

Still, the big picture is, 38 officially recognized cases of "possession" driven abuse in 2006, and it deemed enough of a problem to warrant charities to focus almost half a million pounds to it.

anticant said...

I find Kyle's comments special pleading to an almost comical degree.

To those of his mindset, nothing is EVER the fault of religion - it is always the ignorance or delusion of the imperfect human believers.

These people probably wouldn't behave much better if they didn't believe all the rubbish they do, but it's hard to imagine they would behave any worse.

Our generation is having the sins of our arrogant 19th century missionary forefathers visited upon us for having foisted this slave religion upon the unfortunate black people of Africa.

wombat said...

kyle "If it was wouldn't you expect some of the other witnesses in the enquiry to mention possession? "

See testimony of Mr and Mrs Kimbidima
e.g.
Mr K "So when we know the little girl is possessed and the mother is doing her best, what she can do to get out of this situation."

Incidentally the inquiry identified Mr K as "an acquaintance" rather than as the pastor of a church which makes me suspect that the BBC is mis-quoting.

The fact that the murderers did not mention possession in court may well be on legal advice. Note that they traipsed the poor girl round several churches and told friends (who did testify) she was possessed.

Kyle said...

To those of his mindset, nothing is EVER the fault of religion - it is always the ignorance or delusion of the imperfect human believers.

Anticant I fail to understand why an atheist would think otherwise. If there is no God, then religion is a manmade thing, so the blame does come back to humans.

I don't think that religion is never to blame for attrocities, but any religion that encourages evil is false religion.

Our generation is having the sins of our arrogant 19th century missionary forefathers visited upon us for having foisted this slave religion upon the unfortunate black people of Africa.

These surstitious beliefs existed before Christianity came to Africa.

anticant said...

However you define 'evil', show me a religion that doesn't encourage it.

Kyle said...

However you define 'evil', show me a religion that doesn't encourage it.

Christianity.

That doesn't mean that no Christians have ever done evil, or that people have not tried to use Christianity to justify evil acts, or that people have not thought that Christianity taught that they should do something that was in fact evil.

Chrsitianity: Following the will of God as revealed in the Bible.

Evil: Going against the will of God.

anticant said...

Well, Kyle, if professing Christians do evil sincerely believing they are carrying out the will of God, is that not the fault of the religion?

As for taking your cue from the Bible, doesn't the Bible say "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live"? [Exodus 22.18]

After all, as Kouao - not the pastor - said, "Possession is something we learn from the Bible. I generally do not question the Bible".

So do you, Kyle, believe there are witches, because the Bible says so? If not, why not?

Kyle said...

Of course witches exist. It's ludicrous to say otherwise.

You might as well say that Christians don't exist because God doesn't exist.

A witch is someone who practices witchcraft. They are still a witch even if witchcraft is impossible.

The issue here is completely differnt from the one facing the Jews in Exodus.

For a start, these children are not witches. You cannot be born a witch, and these children are clearly not trying to practice some kind of dark art.

Also, the Bible does not condone accussing someone of being a witch based on hearsay and suspicion, and then going on a witch hunt.

The situation that the Jews at the time would have faced would be someone who was trying to do evil and harm and manipulate others. These witches or sorcoresses had a lot of power to do evil and cause hurt (even though what they believed may have been false). In days before concrete the death penalty was important, because stopping people who wish to do evil is not easy when you don't have prisons.

Modern day witchcraft is very different. It seem to be people who believe in healing crystals and the like. Frequently harmless, even if wrong. To equate these people with the sort that are being spoken about in Exodus is anachronistic.

jeremy said...

Kyle,

You say, in your most recent post, that:
(i) witchcraft doesn't work,
(ii) nowadays, at least, witches don't deserve the death penalty, and
(iii) witches these days are a fairly harmless bunch.

If you do believe these things, then good. We're on the same page, and that is the page that any reasonably rational person should be on at the moment.

Problem is, the Bible doesn't help you conclude any of the above three points. In fact, it contradicts all three of them, directly in the second statement, and by implication for the other two statements. As Twain says, "The witch text remains; only the practice has changed."

I think this is why we are saying that religion has the potential to play a large role in 'witch hunts', etc.

Wouldn't it simply be best if the bible contained NO references to witchcraft, unless they were of the sort that we enumerated above? It really does seem extraordinarily negligent to leave passages such as "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live" in a book that is held out as an example to live by, I think.

jeremy said...

Oh, and what's this about "In days before concrete the death penalty was important, because stopping people who wish to do evil is not easy when you don't have prisons."??

Uh, there were plenty prisons then. Just with stone walls.

anticant said...

Rsally, jeremy, are you suggesting that we should edit the Bible to suit our modern sophisticated tastes?

That, of course, is what the people who wrote it did from the word Go.

But the Bible is the word of God, remember. Not for us mere mortals to tinker with!

jeremy said...

No, Anticant, far be it from me to tamper with the Divine Word. But perhaps it is not to much to ask for God to have got it right the first time? Or at least, told us unambiguously (perhaps on BBC news, or Oprah?) that, "The following passages no longer apply..."?

That's of course if there is a god.

If there isn't (and I'm afraid their really isn't) then the passage about witches is yet another reason to consign the Bible to the long list of historical relics. Interesting in terms of what it shows about a certain Middle Eastern tribe's sense of morality several thousand years ago, but comfortably surpassed by most educated people today (including Kyle - see above).

wombat said...

"A witch is someone who practices witchcraft. They are still a witch even if witchcraft is impossible."

I would have thought that made them just deluded or excessively optimistic.

"These witches or sorcoresses had a lot of power to do evil and cause hurt"

If witchcraft is impossible then being a witch is just a political thing isn't it. The only way they could do harm is by purely normal means. There were plenty of other penalties stipulated for say theft or poisoning or whatever so why not get them on those? It's basically a catch all clause for people who don't fit in.

It wouldn't have been too much trouble to run off another commandment like "Thou shalt not believe in witchcraft for it is complete humbug, and the penalty for such credulity is to be ridiculed in view of the congregation"

anticant said...

Being a priest is just a political thing. It's all about exercising power and control over the gullible by invoking "God's name".

Rev Sam and Kyle, please discuss.

Zimbardo said...

Its beyond horrifying, I see things like this more and more regularly online and really can't get my head around how this is aloud to continue... its enough to make your blood boil...

Kyle said...

Problem is, the Bible doesn't help you conclude any of the above three points. In fact, it contradicts all three of them, directly in the second statement, and by implication for the other two statements. As Twain says, "The witch text remains; only the practice has changed."

The Bible doesn't contain all the truths that there are, so the Chrsitian is not obliged to defend these sorts of beliefs using the Bible.

As for there being a contradiction. I think it's difficult to uphold the contradiction when the verse is taken in context. You can't just take a sentence from the Bible, apply it directly to our situation and claim that that's what the Bible teaches.

In order to show that there's a contradiction you need to make a convincing attempt to show that that is what the Bible teaches, not that you could interpret it that way if you ignore the context.

Kyle said...

Being a priest is just a political thing. It's all about exercising power and control over the gullible by invoking "God's name".

Rev Sam and Kyle, please discuss.


It's not.

What is your evidence for this? You are usual going on about the importance of evidence.

I agree that some religious leaders have used their positions simply for their own game, but that doesn't come close to justifying the statement that "Being a priest is just a political thing."

anticant said...

"You are usual going on about the importance of evidence."

And you, as usual, are going on about the unimportance - indeed, the irrelevance - of evidence.

This is what makes discussion with you so uninteresting.

Damn it, this is a philosophy blog. What do you think philosophy is about?

anticant said...

Of course priesthood is political. Priests are either creatures, or opponents, of the prevailing civil authority. In many periods of history, and in some parts of the world still today, priests aspire to government, or at least to function as its agents. And they always seek to influence society's thinking and behaviour.

I would ask you to point to a time and situation where this statement is not true, but I know you are not interested in evidence.

jeremy said...

Kyle, you misunderstand my point, I think. We are discussing whether religion (Christianity, in this case) has anything to answer for with respect to the recent abuse of children on suspicion of being "witches".

The Bible is held out by Christians as being much more than "some guy's thoughts". It is the Word of God, and good Christians are encouraged to believe in it, are they not?

Now, the selfsame Bible says "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live". Contrary to your rather desperate reply, this is not taken out of context, as I'm sure you know. It is part of a long list of rather disparate commandments (from you-know-Who) about how to conduct oneself. (I'd be interested to know what you think the statement means "in context"?)

But actually this doesn't matter, in the final analysis. Even if (i) the context somehow ends up making the sentence contradict itself (which I doubt), and even if (ii) you are actually supposed to read the passage "metaphorically" (which would be a risible attempt at evasion), it would STILL be better if there were no passages in the Bible telling us to kill witches, wouldn't it?

ANY passage that SEEMS to validate the "fact" of witches' existence and condones their execution is, at the very least, completely irresponsible, and at worst, homocidal. Especially when people are encouraged, day in and day out, to believe that the text is the inspired Word of God.

That's the point I was trying to make. Simply put: if the world would be a better place without the above passage in the Bible, then Christianity has to share in some of the blame for the "witch" child abuse.

anticant said...

The world would be a better place without the entire Bible, the Koran, all other "sacred" books, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and the whole gamut of religions.

Religion and primitive belief in the non-existent 'supernatural' and gods is understandable in a historical context, but has no constructive part to play in today's world.

All it brings is trouble, strife,intolerance, hatred, persecution, and war.

Billy said...

All it brings is trouble, strife,intolerance, hatred, persecution, and war.


Reminds me of a song by motorhead
http://strawmen-cometh.blogspot.
com/2008/11/atheist-metal01.html

Anonymous said...

I've just watched the television program on this it's the first i've heard of this and i've got to say i'm amazed and also disgusted that this has been allowed to grow and fester into what it has become. i'm a first mother and what i saw touched me deeply those kids should not be allowed to suffer in this in-human way i want to help the cause to stop this but all i have to offer is my artistic skills does anyone know who i should contact so i can offer my skills to donate artwork to be sold to make money for these poor helpless childern.

MrFreeThinker said...

"ANY passage that SEEMS to validate the "fact" of witches' existence and condones their execution is, at the very least, completely irresponsible, and at worst, homocidal."
How is this irresponsible.In Israel there was a Sanhedrin established (which rarely resorted to using the death penalty) to give people a fair trial before they were punished.
I would say it was irresponsible for those people to read the bible outside of its historical context and take these verses in isolation without acknowledging he legal system that was in place back then to carry out these laws.
I should say we have proper bible education classes as those people do not understand the bible

desel said...

Re Bible context.

The Bible has been translated copied and edited for about 2000 years.

1) If it was "the word of God" it should not be ambiguous, subject to the interpretive whim of man. Classes (beyond an ability to read) should not be necessary.

2) Despite 2000 years of learned scholarship by Christians interpreting it in a sympathetic way, there are no clarifying footnotes or clear explanations to aid the unwary. Nor has a disambiguated version been produced. Anywhere else explanatory additions would have been made. e.g. "For avoidance of doubt a witch is defined as...". For pities sake it isn't even possible to identify clearly the authors!

Finally I recall a statement someone once made to the effect that "any sufficiently large book is an anagram of any other book"

marinareal said...

I had read about this case, though I had not realised the bottom line had something to do with its obvious religious connotations!

Clearly they are various elements concerning this case, but if one of them involves religion, it is bound to be a situation full of excuses from abusive people who can cleverly disguise their actions with the vulnerability of fears, a card much too used by religious people either to blame or to gain pity

Of course one wouldn't disregard that many people do evil acts or indeed good ones out of their religious fears of fanatical believes

Cheers
Rina

John Jones said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
John Jones said...

This article strikes me as hypocritical.

The abuse of children by a predatory psychiatry has been going on for years, and is getting worse. We are talking about millions here, millions of children and young adults.

Being innately "evil", and being innately "disordered" come from the same hymn sheet, both are an assault on autonomy and are methods of disenfranchising people from themselves, the latter leading to a lifetime of indoctrination to an incoherent reductionism, as well as chemical addiction.