In our effort to drastically reduce the endemic belief in witchcraft and the prevalent practice of child-witch stigmatization, torture and in some cases killing, the Humanist Association for Peace and Social Tolerance Advancement (HAPSTA) on Thursday the 19th of June 2014, holds anotger town hall meeting with elders and religious leaders in Etinan town-hall in Etinan Local Government area of Akwa-Ibom state.
The town-hall meeting which has its central theme: Community Involvement in the Campaign against Childwitch Stigmatisation was to explore the nexus of the role of the community in the war against child-witch stigmatization. The preference for the choice of the topic and the setting is predicated on the prevalence of the instances child-witch stigmatization in Etinan and its neighbouring local governments in Akwa-Ibom state.
The meeting which kick-started at 12:00pm as scheduled had 38 participants in attendance among whom were religious leaders; representing each of the three popular religions namely: Christianity, islam and African traditional religion, serving corp members, young school leavers, artisans and school teachers.
The meeting started with a brief introduction on who we are, what we do and the purpose of the meeting by Emmanuel Okon. Ayobami Ojedokun as interpreted by Ekaette Ante gave an elucidated talk on the role of the community in the fight against child-witch stigmatization and all other forms of child abuse that is found prevalent in Etinan, its environs and Akwa-Ibom state at large. And Emmanuel Okon also took us through the fundamental human rights and the essence of the principles of human rights as against the irrational belief and practice in witchcraft.
In his own remark, the chairman of the occasion and the paramount ruler of Etinan, Dr. J. J Nzek beseeched everybody to cooperate with us in the fight against the irrational belief by advocating for the respect and sanctity of human rights, peace and social justice as against the irrational belief in witchcraft, resulting in child-witch stigmatization/hunting capable of deterring the desired growth and development in the area and the country at large can afford basics of life.
This section was followed by an interactive session which again took an hour. Particular questions were asked about: how we get sponsored by for our projects, whether or not we are religious or political in our activities. A boy named Nzik remarked that he is a witch and asked how the community can in that case be of help to him? Also, questions on how and what do we do to avoid the problem of witch-hunting/ and how can we protect our human rights in the face of wanton human insecurity in the country were asked. Ayobami Ojedokun and Emmanuel Okon did justice to the raised questions, noting that HAMU, Norway and AFRUCA, UK be appreciated for the support given to us so far, and stressing that it takes the collective effort of the community to successfully kicking out the mallace of witchcraft belief in the state .
Talking about the way forwards: the unenlightened Muslims, Christians should be educated on the useless passion of ritual killing and the tie of familihood is entrenched. Also, education and human rights education/advocacy is considered to be key to resolving the problem of the menace addressing.
The meeting which lasted for almost three hours was rounded off with the eventful taking of group pictures with the participants to make it memorable. Eight (8) participants volunteered to join our organization.