Imo State, Nigeria
|Occupation||Evangelical Christian pastor|
Helen Ukpabio is the founder and head of African Evangelical franchise Liberty Foundation Gospel Ministries based in Calabar, Cross River State, Nigeria. She is widely accused of causing widespread harassment, torture and violent deaths of children accused of witchcraft.
During her early life she was educated at St. George's Catholic School in Falomo, Jinadu Anglican School in Obalende and the Methodist Girls' School in Ikot Ekpene, Akwa Ibom State, all in south-eastern Nigeria.
In 1992, Ukpabio founded Liberty Foundation Gospel Ministries with the aim of spreading her often literal interpretations of the Bible to the people of West Africa.
Views on demonic possession and witchcraft
Ukpabio and her organisation believe that Satan has the ability to manifest himself in the bodies of children by demonic possession and make them become his servants in the form of 'witches' or 'wizards'.
Exploiting superstitious beliefs, particularly those related to spiritual or demonic possession or witchcraft, Helen Ukpabio's organisation has grown exponentionally throughout Nigeria and West Africa since its foundation. There are now major Liberty Gospel Churches in Cameroon, Ghana and South Africa as well as Nigeria. Ukpabio has published her views in several books. An example is 'Unveiling The Mysteries of Witchcraft', in which she states that:
Under the age of two, the child screams at night, cries, is always feverish suddenly deteriorates in health, puts up an attitude of fear, and may not feed very well.
She also produces, through her film production company, Liberty Films, part of the Liberty Foundation Gospel Ministries franchise, a number of films to spread the view that children can become possessed by evil spirits. The most famous of these is End of the Wicked in which child actors are shown to eat human flesh and murder their parents.
Her activities are not limited to Nigeria. Ukpabio announced she would preach in Limbe (Cameroon) to promote a program she calls "Freedom From Strong Family Darkness", October 18–22, 2017.
She incites violence against imputed witches who are usually women, children and elderly persons. The people of Cameroon should resist Ukpabio. They should reject her ‘gospel’ of hate and division in families and communities. - Leo Igwe
In 2007 an Observer newspaper article claimed Ukpabio and other evangelical pastors were encouraging an upsurge in the numbers of children being accused of witchcraft and being abused and stigmatised by parents and communities as a result.
In 2008, the TV news documentary Dispatches Saving Africa's Witch Children by UK broadcaster Channel 4 stated the views that she expresses have led to a massive upsurge in children stigmatised and abandoned by their families in West Africa, particularly in Akwa Ibom State, Nigeria. Both reports followed the activities of two charities, CRARN and Stepping Stones Nigeria, now known as safe Child Africa, which aimed to look after the children who have been rejected by their parents for displaying what they believed to be signs of witchcraft, assertions which have also been made by the Associated Press. The Telegraph Thursday 14 April 2011. The accusation and her defence against them have been reported in The New York Times.
A 2009 conference in Nigeria that was critical of her organisation was violently disrupted by members of her organisation.
Libel suit against her critics
In 2014, Ukpabio brought a libel case against the British Humanist Association (BHA) and Witchcraft and Human Rights Information Network (WHRIN) seeking damages of £500,000,000. Ukpabio claims that the BHA misrepresented her by saying that she ascribed certain behaviours in children to Satanic possession when she in fact attributed them to possession by 'witchcraft spirits'. The BHA described the case as libel tourism. After sending a mob to disrupt a meeting led by humanist Leo Igwe in 2009, she filed a suit for $1.3 million against the government for allowing the police to protect Igwe's group. The suit was promptly dismissed. Ukpabio also used smears against other groups of her actions, notably the non-governmental organization Stepping Stones Nigeria. She has been prevented by the Home Office from entering Great Britain by revoking her visa after calls from campaigners in 2014 that she be banned from Britain on child protection grounds.
- "Nigerian witch-finder Helen Ukpabio threatens legal action against". The Independent. 1 September 2014. Retrieved 5 December 2017.
- "This Christian preacher should not have been allowed to bring her 'witch hunt' into this country | From the Observer | Observer.co.uk". theguardian.com. Retrieved 17 April 2014.
- "Biography". www.sodasandpopcorn.com. Retrieved 14 October 2017.
- "Call to ban 'witch hunter' Helen Ukpabio who poses risk to children – UK Politics – UK – The Independent". London: independent.co.uk. Retrieved 17 April 2014.
- Harrison, David (8 November 2008). "'Child-witches' of Nigeria seek refuge". The Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group Limited. Retrieved 14 October 2017.
- Mungai, Michael (12 March 2012). "Americans Should Protest Nigerian Witch-Hunter's Visit". Huffington Post. Retrieved 14 October 2017.
- Robbins, Martin (11 January 2011). "The dangerous fight for the 'child witches' of Nigeria". The Guardian. Guardian News and Media Limited. Retrieved 14 October 2017.
- International Humanist and Ethical Union (23 November 2007). "Superstition and Witchcraft in Africa | International Humanist and Ethical Union". Iheu.org. Archived from the original on 16 April 2012. Retrieved 9 July 2012.
- "End of the Wicked (Video 1999)". IMDb.com. Retrieved 25 November 2012.
- Reidel, Felix (2012). "Children in African Witch-Hunts: An Introduction for Scientists and Social Workers" (PDF). www.whrin.org. Witchcraft and Human Rights Information Network. Retrieved 14 October 2017.
- Igwe, Leo (15 September 2017). "Ukpabio's Witch Hunting Mission Must Stop". News Ghana. Retrieved 14 October 2017.
- Tracy McVeigh in Esit Eket (10 December 2007). "Children are targets of Nigerian witch hunt | World news | The Observer". London: Guardian. Retrieved 9 July 2012.
- "Homepage – Channel 4 News". Channel4.com. Retrieved 9 July 2012.
- [dead link]
- Harrison, David (8 November 2008). "'Child-witches' of Nigeria seek refuge". London: Telegraph. Retrieved 25 November 2012.
- Mark Oppenheimer (21 May 2010). "On a Visit to the U.S., a Nigerian Witch-Hunter Explains Herself". The New York Times. Retrieved 25 November 2012.(subscription required)
- "CFI Representative Assaulted by Christians at Children's Rights Conference". Center for Inquiry. 5 August 2009. Retrieved 25 November 2012.
- BHA. "Libel tourist and Nigerian 'witch hunter' (the self styled) 'Lady Apostle' Helen Ukpabio attempts to stifle critics by suing BHA for half a billion pounds". Retrieved 1 September 2014.
- Igwe, Leo (13 December 2010). "Court rules against Helen Ukpabio and the Liberty Gospel Church". Butterfly and Wheels. Retrieved 14 October 2017.