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Humanists welcome ‘witchcraft’ conference at UNN

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Sir: The Humanist Association of Nigeria (HAN) welcomes the convention of an international conference on witchcraft at the University of Nigeria Nsukka. Witchcraft is a narrative that many Nigerians use in making sense of their misfortunes. It is a pervasive belief that leads to egregious human rights abuses of mainly children, elderly persons and people living with disabilities. In fact, Nigeria has gained an international notoriety as a country where some of the worse cases of harmful practices linked to belief in witchcraft take place. Thus it is encouraging to know that a conference is being organised at one of Nigeria’s foremost universities to debate and explore this dark and destructive phenomenon.

Humanists are utterly dismayed by the protests and oppositions from Christian leaders and organisations especially the call by the Christian Association of Nigeria to cancel the event. It is unfortunate that CAN and other Christian groups have totally misconstrued the purpose and objective of the conference and are using their mistaken views and positions to mobilise the Christian community against the event. The Christian propaganda against the conference on witchcraft has reached a worrisome extent that a Christian Bishop has vowed not to be alive and see the conference happen. This is a clear demonstration of intolerance, extremism and anti intellectualism. The witchcraft conference is an academic seminar that is taking place in a university. It provides an important space to learn, educate and bring various perspectives to the charged issue. Instead of the proposed prayer event, CAN and other religious leaders should mobilise the Christian community to attend the conference and use the event as an opportunity to explore and understand a potent and threatening socio-cultural reality.

Leo Igwe, who holds a doctoral degree in religious studies and wrote a doctoral thesis on witchcraft accusation in northern Ghana, is the chair of the Board of Trustees of the Humanist Association of Nigeria.

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