Churches and destruction of families in the name of witchcraft

Feature Article Churches and destruction of families in the name of witchcraft
SEP 30, 2022 LISTEN

Churches are using witchcraft narratives to undermine family bonds and affection across Christian Nigeria. And little is being done to combat their vicious trend. Some pastors and evangelists stage events and post messages online and offline that fuel occult fears and anxieties linking family problems to witchcraft and the occult. They make false attributions and cook up unimaginable stories, inciting hatred and violence within families.

One such witch-hunting pastor is John Okene of the Divine Touch International Ministries. His church is based in Warri in Delta state. Okene uses his column in The Guardian to propagate witchcraft fears and suspicions. For instance, in April this year, he wrote a piece on "Dealing with family witchcraft". That piece is replete with lies, misconceptions, and fabrications. For instance, Okene stated: "Witchcraft is the least, but most deadly and notorious department among the powers of darkness. The practitioners are very ruthless in their mode of operation". He further noted that witchcraft meetings used to take place at an invisible location on trees and residential houses. Now, may I ask: Is witchcraft a department anywhere? No. Are practitioners of witchcraft ruthless as suggested? Not at all.

Okene went further to link witchcraft to family issues. He stated: "A couple came to me some time ago for prayers because of the strange experiences that they were having in their home. In the cause of prayers, it was revealed that their housemaid, which is a witch, had converted their sitting room into a coven where they hold meetings every night. I sent some of my pastors to go and pray in that house and the witchcraft activities were terminated. May every coven in your house receive fire today in Jesus’ name". On the surface, Okene has helped the couple, but he ended up sowing seeds of enmity, hatred and destruction in this family and others.

Okene used this fabricated story to reinforce this notion that housemaids bewitch family members, and are responsible for the troubles and challenges that couples face. Meanwhile, there is no evidence that housemaids are witches and hold witchcraft meetings anywhere within the homes.

Okene recounted another incident. He said: "A lady cried to my office one afternoon with her two children aged 8 and 6. She was covered with fright as she narrated her strange experiences with these children. It dawned on her to seek help when the older child told her that morning that her body (flesh) looks good to eat. When I interviewed the children carefully, I discovered that they had been initiated into witchcraft by one of their teachers at school through the sharing of birthday food items. You must be careful of what you permit your children to eat".

Again, this is a cooked-up story rooted on the narrative that children are initiated into witchcraft. Are children able to initiate others into witchcraft as this so-called man of God claimed? No. But witch-finding pastors stoke fears and peddle baseless stories, nudging parents to suspect, abuse, and maltreat their children in the name of witchcraft. In the absence of an evidence-based approach to child upbringing and resolution of family issues, Okene made up stories and forge unimaginable incidents that undermine family relationships.

Another church that uses witchcraft claims to poison family bonds is the Revival Army. A woman, a self-acclaimed gifted minister with exceptional prophetic calling, Macfoy Akachukwu, leads this church. The church is based in Enugu in Southern Nigeria. On the church's website , she outlines how to deal with "household witchcraft". She states: “Witchcraft doesn’t only mean the use of divination or practicing sorcery but also includes when you have a domineering wife, husband, father, mother, etc. When someone wants to have control over your life, what you eat, the cloth you wear, the friends you keep, etc. That’s WITCHCRAFT. But the height of it is when that person has graduated to practicing sorcery and divination, or you belong to their kingdom. The spirit behind household wickedness is household witchcraft. They are the ones that are responsible for the substitution of virtues ie exchanging your gifts/talent or making you useless and worthless”.

Based on these narratives, people accuse family members of stealing their destinies and magically making it impossible for them to progress in life. She identifies jealousy and envy, especially in situations where one is more successful and celebrated than others, as causes of witchcraft. Akachukwu identifies mockery, criticism, hatred, opposition, and deception as signs of witchcraft. She suggests some prayers against witchcraft referencing Exodus 22:18 and Micah 5: 12 to sanctify violence against suspected witches.

As the two cases have illustrated pastors use witchcraft narratives to turn parents against their children and housemaids and children against their parents and grand parents. The tragedy is that many Christians in Nigeria look up to these so-called pastors, prophets, and prophetesses for spiritual assistance and guidance. They believe what these witch mongers teach and preach. The Nigerian government should take measures to tackle these charlatans and others who use witchcraft narratives to deceive, exploit and manipulate gullible people, and poison family relationships.

At a time when churches in Europe and America are expressing regret and governments are offering pardon and apologies for their role in the identification and persecution of alleged witches in early modern times, many churches in Nigeria are actively involved in witchcraft allegations and witch hunting. Church programs have become witch finding activities. To end the destruction of families in the name of witchcraft, enlightened Nigerians must rise to the occasion and rally against witch-hunting pastors and churches across the country.