Responsible Christians should condemn paranoia over witchcraft such as that spread by the Guardian (Nigeria) this year in their series Unveiling Witchcraft.
The four part series on Unveiling Witchcraft that The Guardian (Nigeria) on Sunday published in July and August requires a robust response and analysis. This is because the “prophetic” statements that the author made were deeply flawed and misleading. The write up was poorly thought out and capable of tarnishing the image of pastors and Christianity in Nigeria.
It is important to note that many Christian believers in the country do not subscribe to witchcraft narratives or to attributions that blame people’s misfortunes on occult machinations of family and community members. They find witchcraft imputations to be absurd, baseless and unjustified. This is especially the case in a context where such attributions have been linked to egregious human rights abuses in society. So what this author and other witch hunting pastors preach and propose is not representative of what all Nigerian Christians profess. The purpose of this article is to revisit and critically examine witchcraft ideas as espoused in the Unveiling Witchcraft series with the hope of enlightening and edifying the Christian (and the religious) public.
In part 1, the author noted that witchcraft power “creates problems and proffers solutions” that would lead to stronger bondage. He further noted that witchcraft provided credit facilities without guarantees of repayment. In Part 2, he opined that witches operated under the cover of darkness “to weaken, overpower and destroy believers”. In part 3, the author suggested that witchcraft was a covert operation to “dismantle and truncate men’s destinies”. And in part 4, the author stated that people inherited witchcraft from their parents and that individuals could initiate children by giving them “food or drink”.
Even though the author tried to back up his propositions with scriptural verses, his attributions and interpretations did not add up. First of all, there is no evidence that witchcraft powers orchestrate any problem. There is no connection between witchcraft and financial management including credit and debit facilities in banks and financial houses. It is individuals such as the author who make such connections, and foment troubles by using witchcraft narratives to make sense of people’s misfortune.
Also without basis is the author’s idea that problems in families are as a result of witchcraft. The author went along to highlight various witchcraft-based family challenges. This prophetic declaration that associates misfortune with occult harm has ruined myriads of families. It has irreparably damaged social and community relationships. Family problems such as infertility, poverty and diseases are explainable without allusion to occult fears and anxieties. Thus ascribing family ruins and challenges to the “anti-destiny power of witchcraft” is a baseless, disingenuous and dangerous supposition.
Indeed the potential harm in witchcraft allegations is evident in the examples that the author advanced to illustrate his points. Take for example, in part 1, the author alleged that a woman’s lover donated her hand to a witch coven, hence the woman had an injury that could not heal after undergoing surgery. In part 2, the author cited a case where the impotency of a woman’s husband was rectified after it was found through a dream that the man’s organ was in a cauldron in a witch coven. In part 3, the author illustrated his point with the case of a paralytic man who thought that his wife was responsible for his medical condition. But he later found out that it was the sister who took him to a “demonic prayer house” that was responsible for the ailment. In part 4, the author cited the case of a woman who used ‘envious witchcraft’ to kill her intelligent step-son who was studying abroad. According to the author, the young man came home for a brief visit but the step-mother poisoned his drink with her eyes and the guy died shortly after returning to his base. Following the death of the man, the step-mother started seeing the late step son in her dream. And later she went mad, that was after confessing to killing the young man.
These stories drip with deception, manipulation and exploitation. They are filled with senseless and absurd ascriptions. There is no evidence that the incidents happened. In other words, these examples are not actual demonstrations of witchcraft and occult harm. They are nothing but fabricated stories, sacred lies, forged to unveil and illustrate harmful magic, and legitimize occult fears and anxieties in families and communities.
Stories and illustrations in Unveiling Witchcraft would only fuel witchcraft suspicions: paranoid and mystical interpretations of misfortune in the society. They will motivate people to start looking for scapegoats for their problems and challenges instead of confronting them head on.
Unveiling Witchcraft stories would end up turning family members against themselves; husbands against their wives, children against their parents and grand parents. Witchcraft allegations and witch hunting are incompatible with pastoral duties and responsibilities. Enlightened and responsible Christians should ignore and disregard such preaching and ministrations.
Leo is a blogger, human-rights advocate and a Humanist from Nigeria.