‘Lady Apostle’ or Exploiter of Children?
As a former teenage witch, the popular but controversial Nigerian religious leader Helen Ukpabio claims she was betrothed to Satan then saved at 17 “to set the captives free by the gospel.”
Her followers - from Nigeria to South Africa to Texas - say their “Lady Apostle” has done just that, while her critics charge she is a dangerous inciter of child abuse and killings.
Ukpabio, meanwhile, has quietly been coming to Houston during the past few years, leading revivals with about 300 local supporters of her Liberty Foundation Gospel Ministries. In promoting her visit here next week, a widely circulated flier in January promised the Pentecostal-style preacher would hold “marathon deliverance” sessions to cure such ills as bad dreams and witchcraft attacks.
Almost immediately, an international campaign against her exploded on the Internet: At issue, the matronly 43-year-old actress, filmmaker and author is one of Nigeria’s most famous witch hunters. Ukpabio’s books and DVDs, explaining how Satan possesses children, are so well-known that critics say her teachings are to blame for the torture, abandonment and deaths of thousands of children accused of witchcraft.
“Helen is notorious in Nigeria; she’s notorious in Houston,” said Anthony Obi Ogbo, a Nigerian-American and editor of the International Guardian, a predominantly black newspaper based in Houston. “But people here still go see her. … They believe some kids are witches. … They do it in obscurity because they know people will be alarmed.”