The International Conference on Witchcraft on Tuesday kicked off at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, as scheduled, despite opposition to the conference from the Christian bodies.
It was gathered that the opening prayer for the conference was conducted by a Catholic priest, while the moderator was a cleric.
Music was also provided by the UNN Christ Chapel choir.
The conference, organised by Prof. B.I.C Ijomah Centre for Policy Studies and Research, UNN, met stiff opposition and criticisms, but organisers rebuffed the calls to cancel the conference, and instead changed the initial theme: “Witchcraft, meanings, factors and practices,” to ”Dimensions of human behaviours.”
UNN management had directed the organisers to drop the initial theme of the conference on account of outcries from various christian bodies.
However, speaking at the opening ceremony of the conference holding at Nsukka main campus of UNN, the Director of the centre, Prof. Egodi Uchendu, regretted how ordinary academic conference was twisted to cause confusion by social media and other media platforms.
“The casualty of this confusion went beyond being asked by UNN management to change title but also the withdrawal of our keynote speaker, Prof. David Ker.
“I am delighted that social media hyper on the conference didn’t deter participants and organisers from attending the conference, which is completely academic,” she said.
Prof. Damian Opata, in his paper titled “The wealthy are no witches: Towards an Epistemology and Ideology of Witchcraft among the Igbo of Nigeria,” explained that the way witchcraft was propagated and believed by some Nigerians had continued to kill the development of knowledge on the issue.
“Some people have killed the initiative for creative indigenous thinking because of mere belief in witchcraft.
“Pastors, prophets, seers in the foreign religions and charismatic priests of variegated persuasions very frequently use perceived attacks by witches and wizards to put fear in the minds and hearts of their various congregations.”
Continuing, he said, “The truth is, for those who believe that witches and wizards exist, it exists for them; and those who believe it does not exist, it doesn’t exist.
“What we are doing today is completely an academic conference; it’s unfortunate that some people tried on social media to give it different interpretations.”
Head of Department of Sociology and Anthropology at the UNN, Prof. Peter-Jazzy Eze, who spoke on what he titled, “Which witch? What Anthropology knows of the Adult Bugbear,” explained that witchcraft did not exist but only existed in the mind of the people who believed in it.
“Science and technology have overtaken the superstitious belief of witchcraft, which has no practical proof.”
Eze said it was time Africa dropped the belief in witchcraft and embraced robust knowledge in science and technology, “the application of which is very practical and verifiable.”
“If Africans can fully embrace science and technology, in the next 50 years, there will be nothing like superstitious belief in witchcraft, ” he said.