Former steamrolling NFL running back Christian Okoye isn't The Nigerian Nightmare, according to folks like Deana Holmes. Self-proclaimed witch hunter Helen Ukpabio is.
"Not sure that we need to have this crap where little kids are accused of being witches that need to be prayed over and exorcised," writes Holmes about Ukpabio, who is scheduled to visit Houston from her native Nigeria in mid-March for her "Marathon Deliverance."
Ukpabio is the leader of the Liberty Foundation Gospel Ministries, an African evangelical religious organization that also has centers in Ghana, Cameroon and South Africa. According to the event announcement, Lady Apostle Ukpabio will be in Houston for "12 days of battling in the spirit of freedom."
The Pentecostal cleric claims to have the power to identify and exorcise "witch children" who are possessed by the devil. In her book Unveiling the Mysteries of Witchcraft, she writes, "If a child under the age of two screams in the night, cries and is always feverish with deteriorating health he or she is a servant of Satan."
Ukpabio supporters (and there are a decent amount, especially in West Africa) consider her a servant of God who has helped eradicate spiritual ailments from humankind. Her critics, such as Staise Gonzalez, say that once children are identified as witches, especially in areas where people believe in sorcery, they are tortured and sometimes killed.
"These suspected witches have been treated in brutal and inhumane ways," says Gonzalez, who is organizing 12 days of protest to correspond with Ukpabio's appearance, scheduled from March 14 to March 25.
"Abandoned, isolated and otherwise ostracized from the community, taken to the forest and slaughtered, disgraced publicly, bathed in acid, poisoned, buried alive, chained and tortured in churches in order to extract confession, and murdered," she says.
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Ukpabio, the subject of the 2008 documentary Saving Africa's Witch Children, last visited Houston for four days in May 2010. An online petition through change.org is attempting to block U.S. entry to Ukpabio.
(The event location is listed as Liberty Gospel Church. However, there's no address attached to the event announcement. Calls to the contact phone, as well as Glorious Praise Ministries, who helped organize Ukpabio's 2010 stay, were not immediately returned.)
Meanwhile, the Stand Against Helen Ukpabio Facebook page, created three weeks ago by Gonzalez, has nearly 900 likes as of the time this post was published.
Along with the protest, Gonzalez says that there will be a fundraiser with proceeds donated to United Kingdom-based Stepping Stones Nigeria, "A charity that works to combat the atrocities of Ukpabio and others like her by providing these abused children with an education, healthcare, clothing, counseling, refuge and protection," says Gonzalez.