Top Menu

Churches involved in Torture, Murder of Thousands of African Children Denounced as Witches

This Aug. 18, 2009 photo shows children accused of witchcraft waiting for food at the Children's Rights and Rehabilitation Network in Eket, Nigeria.

In a grisly article, the LA Times reports via the AP that thousands of African children have been tortured and murdered in the name of Christianity because they were thought to be witches. The burning and murdering of “witches” is something that was thought to have died out in the 17th century with the Salem Witch Trials but it is all too real in some places around the world, especially in Africa where Evangelicalism has been on the rise.

Rest assured Robert Spencer won’t be reporting on this any time soon, nor will the mainstream media say (rightly so) “Christianity” is to blame for this because it is not; human beings are the cause. This highlights a double standard, the continuing saga of “what if they were Muslim?” If we replaced the word Christian here with Muslim and the word Churches with Mosques, we know very well that this would be plastered all over the internet in a second. The anti-Muslim blogosphere would be erupting in delirium and pundits would be pontificating on how Islam is the cause, Islam is barbaric, Islam is irreconcilable to modernity and must be stopped, etc.

Churches Involved in Torture, Murder of Thousands of African Children

by, Katharine Hourfeld

EKET, Nigeria (AP) — The nine-year-old boy lay on a bloodstained hospital sheet crawling with ants, staring blindly at the wall.

His family pastor had accused him of being a witch, and his father then tried to force acid down his throat as an exorcism. It spilled as he struggled, burning away his face and eyes. The emaciated boy barely had strength left to whisper the name of the church that had denounced him — Mount Zion Lighthouse.

A month later, he died.

Nwanaokwo Edet was one of an increasing number of children in Africa accused of witchcraft by pastors and then tortured or killed, often by family members. Pastors were involved in half of 200 cases of “witch children” reviewed by the AP, and 13 churches were named in the case files.

Some of the churches involved are renegade local branches of international franchises. Their parishioners take literally the Biblical exhortation, “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.”

“It is an outrage what they are allowing to take place in the name of Christianity,” said Gary Foxcroft, head of nonprofit Stepping Stones Nigeria.

For their part, the families are often extremely poor, and sometimes even relieved to have one less mouth to feed. Poverty, conflict and poor education lay the foundation for accusations, which are then triggered by the death of a relative, the loss of a job or the denunciation of a pastor on the make, said Martin Dawes, a spokesman for the United Nations Children’s Fund.

“When communities come under pressure, they look for scapegoats,” he said. “It plays into traditional beliefs that someone is responsible for a negative change … and children are defenseless.”


The idea of witchcraft is hardly new, but it has taken on new life recently partly because of a rapid growth in evangelical Christianity. Campaigners against the practice say around 15,000 children have been accused in two of Nigeria’s 36 states over the past decade and around 1,000 have been murdered. In the past month alone, three Nigerian children accused of witchcraft were killed and another three were set on fire.

Nigeria is one of the heartlands of abuse, but hardly the only one: the United Nations Children’s Fund says tens of thousands of children have been targeted throughout Africa.

Church signs sprout around every twist of the road snaking through the jungle between Uyo, the capital of the southern Akwa Ibom state where Nwanaokwo lay, and Eket, home to many more rejected “witch children.” Churches outnumber schools, clinics and banks put together. Many promise to solve parishioner’s material worries as well as spiritual ones — eight out of ten Nigerians struggle by on less than $2 a day.

“Poverty must catch fire,” insists the Born 2 Rule Crusade on one of Uyo’s main streets.

“Where little shots become big shots in a short time,” promises the Winner’s Chapel down the road.

“Pray your way to riches,” advises Embassy of Christ a few blocks away.

It’s hard for churches to carve out a congregation with so much competition. So some pastors establish their credentials by accusing children of witchcraft.

Nwanaokwo said he knew the pastor who accused him only as Pastor King. Mount Zion Lighthouse in Nigeria at first confirmed that a Pastor King worked for them, then denied that they knew any such person.

Bishop A.D. Ayakndue, the head of the church in Nigeria, said pastors were encouraged to pray about witchcraft, but not to abuse children.

“We pray over that problem (of witchcraft) very powerfully,” he said. “But we can never hurt a child.”

The Nigerian church is a branch of a Californian church by the same name. But the California church says it lost touch with its Nigerian offshoots several years ago.

“I had no idea,” said church elder Carrie King by phone from Tracy, Calif. “I knew people believed in witchcraft over there but we believe in the power of prayer, not physically harming people.”

The Mount Zion Lighthouse — also named by three other families as the accuser of their children — is part of the powerful Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria. The Fellowship’s president, Ayo Oritsejafor, said the Fellowship was the fastest-growing religious group in Nigeria, with more than 30 million members.

“We have grown so much in the past few years we cannot keep an eye on everybody,” he explained.

But Foxcroft, the head of Stepping Stones, said if the organization was able to collect membership fees, it could also police its members better. He had already written to the organization twice to alert it to the abuse, he said. He suggested the fellowship ask members to sign forms denouncing abuse or hold meetings to educate pastors about the new child rights law in the state of Akwa Ibom, which makes it illegal to denounce children as witches. Similar laws and education were needed in other states, he said.

Sam Itauma of the Children’s Rights and Rehabilitation Network said it is the most vulnerable children — the orphaned, sick, disabled or poor — who are most often denounced. In Nwanaokwo’s case, his poor father and dead mother made him an easy target.

“Even churches who didn’t use to ‘find’ child witches are being forced into it by the competition,” said Itauma. “They are seen as spiritually powerful because they can detect witchcraft and the parents may even pay them money for an exorcism.”

That’s what Margaret Eyekang did when her 8-year-old daughter Abigail was accused by a “prophet” from the Apostolic Church, because the girl liked to sleep outside on hot nights — interpreted as meaning she might be flying off to join a coven. A series of exorcisms cost Eyekang eight months’ wages, or US$270. The payments bankrupted her.

Neighbors also attacked her daughter.

“They beat her with sticks and asked me why I was bringing them a witch child,” she said. A relative offered Eyekang floor space but Abigail was not welcome and had to sleep in the streets.

Members of two other families said pastors from the Apostolic Church had accused their children of witchcraft, but asked not to be named for fear of retaliation.

The Nigeria Apostolic Church refused repeated requests made by phone, e-mail and in person for comment.


At first glance, there’s nothing unusual about the laughing, grubby kids playing hopscotch or reading from a tattered Dick and Jane book by the graffiti-scrawled cinderblock house. But this is where children like Abigail end up after being labeled witches by churches and abandoned or tortured by their families.

There’s a scar above Jane’s shy smile: her mother tried to saw off the top of her skull after a pastor denounced her and repeated exorcisms costing a total of $60 didn’t cure her of witchcraft. Mary, 15, is just beginning to think about boys and how they will look at the scar tissue on her face caused when her mother doused her in caustic soda. Twelve-year-old Rachel dreamed of being a banker but instead was chained up by her pastor, starved and beaten with sticks repeatedly; her uncle paid him $60 for the exorcism.

Israel’s cousin tried to bury him alive, Nwaekwa’s father drove a nail through her head, and sweet-tempered Jerry — all knees, elbows and toothy grin — was beaten by his pastor, starved, made to eat cement and then set on fire by his father as his pastor’s wife cheered it on.

The children at the home run by Itauma’s organization have been mutilated as casually as the praying mantises they play with. Home officials asked for the children’s last names not to be used to protect them from retaliation.

The home was founded in 2003 with seven children; it now has 120 to 200 at any given time as children are reconciled with their families and new victims arrive.

Helen Ukpabio is one of the few evangelists publicly linked to the denunciation of child witches. She heads the enormous Liberty Gospel church in Calabar, where Nwanaokwo used to live. Ukpabio makes and distributes popular books and DVDs on witchcraft; in one film, a group of child witches pull out a man’s eyeballs. In another book, she advises that 60 percent of the inability to bear children is caused by witchcraft.

In an interview with the AP, Ukpabio is accompanied by her lawyer, church officials and personal film crew.

“Witchcraft is real,” Ukpabio insisted, before denouncing the physical abuse of children. Ukpabio says she performs non-abusive exorcisms for free and was not aware of or responsible for any misinterpretation of her materials.

“I don’t know about that,” she declared.

However, she then acknowledged that she had seen a pastor from the Apostolic Church break a girl’s jaw during an exorcism. Ukpabio said she prayed over her that night and cast out the demon. She did not respond to questions on whether she took the girl to hospital or complained about the injury to church authorities.

After activists publicly identified Liberty Gospel as denouncing “child witches,” armed police arrived at Itauma’s home accompanied by a church lawyer. Three children were injured in the fracas. Itauma asked that other churches identified by children not be named to protect their victims.

“We cannot afford to make enemies of all the churches around here,” he said. “But we know the vast majority of them are involved in the abuse even if their headquarters aren’t aware.”

Just mentioning the name of a church is enough to frighten a group of bubbly children at the home.

“Please stop the pastors who hurt us,” said Jerry quietly, touching the scars on his face. “I believe in God and God knows I am not a witch.”

, , , , , , , , , , , ,

  • Sir David ( Illuminati membership number 5:32)

    You so nearly had the point of the whole article and then you fumbled the pass.
    Yes its about Hypocrisy.
    The point is that the western media espicially in the US does not treat religions equally . There are evil people using religion both Christian Muslim for there own ends .

  • hox

    more hypocrisy

    trying to demonise a religion on the malpracice of some christians is exactly what you accuse people doing to islam. Secondly i find in poor taste asmuslims have commited numerous attrocties in that countery (so too have christians)

  • juandos

    What’s truly amazing is that anyone takes what the L.A. Times and the AP has to say at face value…

  • Goldberg

    Every single newspaper across the board would have had this on their front page if Muslims were involved.

  • gentleben

    TYO, great question. However the analogy is not apt. It is like looking at a case of racism against a white silver-haired wealthy Anglo-Saxon Protestant American CEO and then trying to draw parallels about that with racism against African-Americans.

    There is no question that Christianity is not under the same fire in America as Islam; it is not as misunderstood and maligned in America as Islam. Most Americans are Christian or of Christian heritage, Christianity has long been in our movies, songs, schools, holidays, mainstream culture, and social consciousness. It gets as much recognition and props (e.g. everybody glorifies Mother Theresa, everybody acknowledges the beauty of Christian art such as Da Vinci, Michelanglo, etc) as it gets knocks if not more.

    A whole different story with Islam. Islam is the faith of a small minority of Americans, it remains severely misunderstood and maligned. Most people have no clue about the positive contributions of Islam or the undertakings of an average Muslim life. Instead, many still see the faith as otherly and exotic if not dangerous and terroristic.

    As such, intentional attacks against an embattled minority that threatens to further marginalize and jeopardize their civic standing if not safety, cannot be compared to ridiculing an aspect of the majority population where most people have enough clue and nuance about the subject for it not to be their exclusive window on that subject – even if the attacks seem similar on their face, the context is supremely different.

    Hope this helps.

  • TYO

    I was reading a controversy about the show Curb Your Enthusiasm. Larry David’s pee ends up accidentally splashing on the portrait of Jesus. The Catholic League is offended. But the comments were more interesting. From people loving the show for showing “religious idiocy” through the episode and the resulting reaction, to that it was tasteless and stepped over the line.

    I ended up thinking because of this site about what if they were from another religion like Islam? Whatever would be the parallel of pee on Jesus in Islam, would that be anti-Muslim and Islamophobic? If so, then was the pee on Jesus be anti-Christian and Christianophobic? Are we appropriately sensitive to the Islamic faith and not sensitive enough to the Christian faith, or are we too sensitive to the Islamic faith and appropriately sensitive (which some Christians would consider insensitive) to the Christian faith?

  • TYO

    Double standard on what if they were Muslim. I thought the article was a good one to show the double standard if these people have been Muslim versus Christian. Then I read the comments and came to ask the same question – what if these comments were about Muslims? For instance:

    “The fundamentalist [Muslims] are funding these [Islam supremacist] movements and they cause problems wherever they go, in Africa it’s easy for them to buy converts, usually they only get converts from the lowest echeleons of the world’s society. For in [the Middle East] right wing [Islam] is on the decline as it’s seen as the religion of the bigots and uneducated.”

    It would sound Islamophobic, bigoted and racist. Perhaps everyone should show greater tolerance to everyone.

  • FromAdamToMuhammed

    Thank you Loonwatch, for this great article. Notice the Church responsible for this torture was a Christian Zionist (dominionist) one. These Messianic and Christian Zionist Evangelical churces are notorious for seeing everyone else as condemned to hell, even other Christians, not just in the US, but even in Israel, they’re reviled even by those right winger settlers who see them as allies, as they have an agenda for converting as a condition for support.

    The fundamentalist American Evangelicals are funding these Dominionist movements and they cause problems wherever they go, in Africa it’s easy for them to buy converts, usually they only get converts from the lowest echeleons of the world’s society. For in America right wing Evangelism is on the decline as it’s seen as the religion of the bigots and uneducated.

    Chris Rodda, who is a Researcher at the MRFF (Military Religious Freedom Foundation)

    has written a book extensively documenting how the Religious Right Dominionists backed by neo cons hijacked the US media (fox News, World Net Daily, etc.) and the US military, and the constitution, (stem cell, abortion, anti gay, anti muslim, anti jew, anti atheist)

    Chris Rodda’s book is called Liars for Jesus and is availabe on Amazon, but also can be read at it’s own site here

    On a separate note, to the readers here I’d say check out the MRFF that Chris Rodda works for. As mentioned by one of the members above, it is run by Michael Weinstein and the foundation does excellent work excellent work in combating these Dominionists. Mikey Weinstein has instilled the fear of God into these nutters. They consider him to be their No. 1 enemy.

    On October 15, 2009, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation was officially nominated for the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize. The nominator, who wishes to remain anonymous, happens to be the only Christian in the upper chamber of his country’s national parliament; the country is an ally of the United States.

    Reviled by the fundamentalist Christian right, Mikey has been given many names by his evangelical enemies including Satan, Satan’s lawyer, the Antichrist, That Godless, Secular Leftist, The Antagonizer of All Christians, The Most Dangerous Man in America and, most recently and perhaps most colorfully, The Field General of the Godless Armies of Satan.

    Thank you Loonwatch. Keep up the excellent work, and please try to focus on Mikey’s work and foundation too, as your Muslim readers could help him in his work combating these Dominionsts. It’s non profit, so we should all join hands with and work together for that which is right.

    Every human being has the right to practice (or not practice) whatever religion they want, without extremists forcing conversions or burning them for being witches.

  • Jelly beans

    More information here and how Dominionists are spoiling for an Iran war to bring the Armageddon. This is after the Iraq war failed to bring the Messiah and after Iraq rejected their missionary efforts after they invaded.

    Military Religious Freedom is the website that fights dominionists. It is run by Mikey Weinstein, one of the 50 most influential Jews in the USA, he is an ex military man, please check out its extensive work and exposing of this evil cult.

  • Jelly beans

    Readers here who want to see the Christian Zionist Evangelical right wing exposed should actually visit Jewish and mainstream Christian sites specialise in exposing them. 2 of them are:

    Max Blumenthal, who has made various documentaries on right wing neo con fanatics, Pastor Hagee, and his right wing loon base. Aside from being the son of Sidney Blumenthal, Clinton’s right hand during his Presidency, Max is the author of Republican Gomorrah: Inside The Movement That Shattered The Party

    Talk to Action, whose co founder Bruce Wilson singlehandedly destroyed Pastor Hagee’s sponsoring of John McCain by exposing his anti Jewish bigotry. They are as anti-semitic as they are Islamophobic, and they support Israel for the Armegeddon.

    Phillip Weiss, a Jew who used to write for the Observer, he has brilliant insight

    All three of the above writers are good at exposing The Right Wing fanatics, Jewish and Christian zealotry, the role of the Republican Jewish Coalition, and the lies they spread.

  • The Evangelical right wing also known as Christian Zionists or Dominionists are the Crusaders of today.

    Whilst Europe dumped Christian fanatacism 3 centuries ago, it is alive and well in the USA, and a serious problem. The dominionists, who are Armageedon fanatics, see the US military as a tool to further their own agenda.

    These are the group that the Jewish neo cons have affiliated themselves with, they went into Iraq to bring about the Armeggedon. Bush’s base was the Evangelical right wing. Of course, they lost the war, and Jesus didn’t come sailing in as they thought they would, and the Jewish neocons didn’t get total dominion of the Mid East as they wanted. Evil suffered a great defeat.

    Also, the extremist Christian Evangelical movement infiltrated the military, and tries to impose their zealoutry on non Evangelicals. Their evil deeds are exposed here, in a website run by Mikey Weinstein, who is one of the most influential Jews in America. He was Ross Perot’s right hand man. A military man himself, he saw first hand what these Evangelical dominionists were doing to the military.

    Please go to this page, and from the drop down menu’s see the various news reports and video clips, that this organisation has compiled. It shows the threat that this minority of Christian modern day Crusaders pose, and especially did pose during the Bush era. They used 9/11 to further their own agenda. That is why the likes of Pamela Geller so desperately need them,

  • Yes, this story will be ignored, but if an American tourist stubs his toe in Nigeria, it’ll be all over the news and everyone will be clucking about “what’s wrong with” Nigeria.

  • JesusChristSuperStar

    This is truly tragic!
    It happens when there is lack of education on the matter! Religion is not to blame here, but more like lack of understanding and fear of the unfamiliar..
    That’s why we need to help them move forward, and not backwards like this..

  • Pingback: Tweets that mention Churches involved in Torture, Murder of Thousands of African Children Denounced as Witches | --

  • Barry Lyndon

    Actually hdatsu has a point; people have used abortion clinic bombings to smear Christians and even the oklahoma city bombing despite the fact that Timothy McVeigh was an atheist.

  • Fareed

    Just found this blog through Muslim Planet,, keep up the good work!

  • Mughalistan

    If this was done by mosques it would be all over the news.

  • MarkJohnson

    Christianophobes I thin khe meant the Jews that persecuted Christians…lol
    I hope though he’s not 47. He would know better! Although…

  • Ustadh

    I don’t get it? Are you being ironic hdatsu? Sorry, I’m a little slow.

  • hdatsu_47

    what if they were Muslim?
    But we have heard these stories all throughout history, too. Remember those groups of Christianophobes?

Powered by Loon Watchers