Group begins campaign to end witch persecution by 2030
Foremost humanist, Dr. Leo Igwe, has unveiled the Advocacy for Alleged Witches (AfAW) to end witch hunting and witch persecution in the country and Africa by the year 2030. During a courtesy visit by the group to The Guardian newspaper, Igwe bemoaned the incidences of witchcraft accusation, which has been a form of death sentence in communities, witch persecution and killing.
He said: “Witch persecutions happen at a scale, which many of us cannot imagine. The consequences are severe, health damaging. In fact, survivors live with the trauma for the rest of their lives. It has become necessary to wage an effective campaign against this. Those who are believed to engage in witchcraft are treated without mercy; they are lynched, tortured to confess and admit to witchcraft. They are ostracized and abandoned; they are subjected to horrific abuses including violent exorcism and trial by ordeal.
“These atrocities are still taking place in our society today. Last year, relatives severely beat a young man in my community in Southeastern Nigeria after accusing him of killing the mother though occult means. In December, a woman burnt a 10-year-old girl following accusations of witchcraft in Lagos. And in Plateau, a parent set two children ablaze based on suspicions of witchcraft. These two cases were actually the tip of the iceberg because most of cases of witch persecution target vulnerable members of the population, which are children, elderly women and people living with disabilities. They happen within the family, in rural areas and are largely unreported.
“And recently nothing has shown the toxic nature of witchcraft fears and anxieties better than the reaction of Christian students to the conference on witchcraft that took place in University of Nigeria, Nsukka last November. Christian students, with the support of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN) opposed the event and staged a parallel prayer conference against witchcraft.
“Thus in January, the Advocacy for Alleged Witches was launched and its goals have been articulated in the decade of activism declaration. The main objective of AfAW is to achieve a critical mass of advocates for alleged witches and help bring an end to witch persecution in the region in the next 10 years,” he said.
Igwe added that AfAW would be working to protect, defend, and rehabilitate alleged witches. “We have rolled out a campus programme: ‘Who is afraid of witches on campuses?’ This programme aims at dispelling witchcraft fears and anxieties and mobilizing a critical mass of student advocates for alleged witches.