Of churches and murderous deliverance session
By Sunmola Olowookere
It was deliverance Sunday at a Nigerian church. As usual, the church was filled to capacity. Over 75 per cent of the worshippers were women.
They have come to be delivered of their lives’ troubles. An average Nigerian believes that only going to church for such programmes can solve all his problems. They can sleep at home and watch Telemundo, African Magic and Big Brother Naija all through the week, but when it is time for church programmes, they catch a frenzy as they petition God to deliver them from their self-afflicted spirit of poverty.
Through this trait, the international community in its wisdom had adjudged Nigerians to be one of the most religious people of the world.
This Sunday was no different, people had come for deliverance and breakthrough prayers.
As the church members danced past, the pastors that stood in front anointed them with oil from a silverware bowl held by ushers. Papa (a parlance used to describe general overseers in some parts of Africa) stood at the pulpit and watched the process with keen interest. Fierce looking men, wearing black suits flanked him as he scanned the moving congregation.
At intervals, he would point to a certain member out of the congregation and one of those men will march the person to a corner. It means that such a person has evil spirit tormenting him or her. Soon their number grew. They were those that had been identified for full deliverance. The others went back to their seats.
The deliverance session soon started in earnest. The man of God would grab each of the congregants. He would began to rebuke the supposed evil spirit in them. He would smack wherever the evil spirit is residing. He would smack them violently on the head. When those people cry out, one would not but wonder whether it was the evil spirit indeed that was feeling the heat or the host that was feeling the pain of the assault.
Even if it is a woman’s chest or her private part, he would not be deterred by public censure as he would smack there and lay his hands on those places.
It was usually a very combative experience as he virtually assaults them. Minutes into the session, he would be drenched in sweat and would soon have to remove his suit.
The fierce looking men beside Papa would hold the member’s arm in a tight grasp, probably so that the member who are often times women would be unable to fight back.
No matter how much they try to wriggle free, they are hooked by these strong and ablebodied men, they soon get weak from the onslaught of the planned violence camouflaged as deliverance session.
Sometimes some of these women would manifest different kinds of traits. While some would wriggle like snakes, others would declare that they were from the marine.
As if this was not enough, the man of God would then put his fingers inside the victim’s ear and pinch it with his nails, as the person cries out from the pain, he too would shout “get out of there” “you evil spirit! Get out of there”.
All of them would be sweating including the victim. The heat and the exhaustion from the assault would eventually made the victim to fall down in stupor.
The church would then jubilate that the evil spirit obeyed the pastor’s orders and fled. He would then pray for the fallen victim and move on to the next person.
The above scenario might seem like a fiction but it is not. It is very real like the nose on our faces. Watch out! They now abound even right in Akure metropolis. The deliverance sessions in such churches are like a taekwando practice session.
Though there are true servants of God but the wolves now seem to outnumber the sheep.
There should be a monitoring team established by CAN that would be covertly monitoring church activities. If CAN would try it and expose such men who are in it, would go a long in checking the menace.
In this type of the deliverance we are talking about, a 4 year old girl was beaten to death as the parents in league with the leader of their church, an orthodox church based in Akure, Ondo state capital had embarked on an exorcism exercise on the girl.
According to reports, the church leader had identified the 4 year old girl, Miss Testimony Toke Babalola as a witch.
In a bid to exorcise the girl so that the spirit would be removed from her, she was allegedly beaten to death by her father in Akure.
The Parish Priest of Mary Queen of Angels Catholic church Akure, Reverend Father Mathew Ologun said that he became aware of the ill-treatment meted out on the child in June through the church children’s caregiver, who noticed so many scars all over her body.
The Rev. Father explained further that the father of the girl, Mr. Felix Babalola, who attends one white garment church opposite NAO supermarket in Akure claimed that the girl was possessed with evil spirit and that all the marks on her body were as a result of the white garment church deliverance style.
However, unknown to the church the beating and torture of late Testimony continued until she was rushed to the hospital dead.
In an interview with newsmen, the father of late Testimony said his church (Cherubim and Seraphim) told him that his daughter was possessed and needed deliverance, hence the constant assault.
Aside from the bruises she sustained from the deliverance process, the father was said to have also claimed that the girl had been over-pampered by her grandmother whom she had been residing with in Ikare since she was 9 months old before she was taken back to Akure recently.
It was a pity that those that observed the girl’s predicament months earlier before she was battered to death did not deem it fit to report the crime to security operatives.
According to one of the witnesses, she had confronted the mother to know how the girl acquired so many bruises on her body, and the woman said it was due to punishment she used to get from her father for being stubborn.
The mother was said to have claimed that the father used to punish the girl severely whenever she failed to kneel down and greet him, saying they were trying to teach her moral lessons which she didn’t get in her grandmother’s place.
From the foregoing, it is apparent that some parents do have anger management issues and if such is not corrected, we will continue to experience this sort of tragedy in our midst.
Testimony died a slow, gradual and painful death probably because her young and fragile body and spirit came under constant and heavy assault. Her spirit had probably been broken before her body succumbed.
It was obvious that she had thrown in the towel because she could not take any more abuse.
The picture of her young and battered body is heart rending for even the stoutest of hearts.
It was a pity that the society and her parents failed the young girl. Her pain and fear could only be best imagined. She is no longer alive to recount the ordeal she went through.
The efforts of those who made attempt to get the parents arrested was successful as the police was able to apprehend them. The parents must be made to face the full wrath of the law so that it would serve as a deterrence to others.
When dealing with such cases, the church must remember the teaching of love, forebearance and grace and handle the case accordingly if indeed such allegations of witchcraft have basis.
Christ whose mission on earth gave birth to the church was an embodiment of the above mentioned emotions when he was on earth. He did not kill Mary Magdalene while delivering her. Where did these crop of dangerous men of God learn from? Definitely not from God.
Gone are the days when believers harp on the passage “suffer not the witch to live….”. Now no one, not even parents, has the right to do such. We live in a society where the law is supreme. Though the deed had been done, but Testimony’s parents would repent of their crime and the experience is one which they would not forget in a hurry.
Truly in the dark ages, witches were stoned to death or burned at the stakes, however the society soon came to realize that most of those supposed witches and wizards that were executed were special and gifted beings who would made tremendous impact on their society. But because those around them then could not understand these people, they preferred that they be put away.
Their gifts, talents and abilities were incomprehensible to the simple men who were leaders, they preferred that those gifted men and women should be done away with.
Testimony has suffered a cruel fate. She would have been bewildered and alone as her mother who should have stood up for her watched nonchalantly while the poor girl was pummeled to death.
The society must awaken and be more responsive in issues like this. If people around who claimed to have been noticing such abnormality for a period of up to three months had done something tangible about it, then such needless death would have been averted.