A Nigerian bishop said this week Christians need to be aware that witchcraft is real and represents “the state of unredeemed man.”
Witchcraft matters to a lot of people in Africa, said Catholic Bishop Matthew Kukah of Sokoto, following a controversial conference on the subject, and otherwise “no one would be talking about it.”
Witchcraft “does exist, and even Jesus had encounters with what we might refer to as the equivalent of these powers that derive from forces other than God,” the bishop told Crux, a U.S.-based Catholic news outlet.
“It’s easy for those who do not believe in them to dismiss them, and perhaps, rightly so,” Kukah said. “But for those who believe in them, their potency is real and their disciples work hard as mediators through rituals,” Kukah said.
The bishop’s remarks followed on the heels of an international conference held on the topic at the University of Nigeria-Nsukka (UNN) on November 26-28.
Organizers titled the conference “Witchcraft: Meaning, Factors and Practices,” but had to change the name to “Dimensions of Human Behavior” after Christian groups in Nigeria accused the university of “sponsoring evil.”
Some Christian churches went so far as to accuse organizers of being witches and wizards themselves and the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN) declared a two-day “prayer of warfare” against the conference.
“All Christians should, without further delay, call on the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and the awesome God of David to fight for his name,” the church declared.
For his part, Bishop Kukah suggested that the examination of witchcraft had merit and that a sober study of the phenomenon could help people to move beyond it.
“Witchcraft is characterized by fear of the elements, whereas God ordered man to control the elements and use creation for development,” Kukah said. “You can say that the stage of witchcraft is the state of unredeemed man, the darkness before the light. Science destroys witchcraft because it addresses the fears that witchcraft exploits by scientific proof.”
“Real development,” he said, “drives out witchcraft.”