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History student exposes Ugandan child sacrifice

Former Stonyhurst pupil returns to school to talk about his work for the charity Jubilee Campaign

By on Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Phil Leonard, pictured in the blue jumper, returns to Stonyhurst                                                Photo: Dawn Johnson

Phil Leonard, pictured in the blue jumper, returns to Stonyhurst Photo: Dawn Johnson

A former Stonyhurst pupil returned to the Lancashire Jesuit school earlier this month to talk about his work in Uganda for the charity Jubilee Campaign.

Phil Leonard, now a History student at Edinburgh University, worked undercover with award-winning television journalist Chris Rogers to expose the shocking practice of child sacrifice in Uganda. Their film was shown recently on BBC’s Panorama. Their research found that child sacrifice is far more common than anyone realised and that, worryingly, it seems to be increasing.

Mr Leonard said: “Jubilee Campaign’s research gives several reasons for the rise of this disturbing activity.

Sacrificing children between the ages of about three and 12 is believed to bring wealth and prosperity and, with the growth of a Ugandan middle class, more people wanting to secure success for their businesses, buildings or factories are paying large sums of money to witch-doctors to do this. Other factors are police inadequacy and lack of regulation combining with widespread superstition and poor education.”

Jubilee Campaign is trying to eradicate the practice through education, campaigning for changes in the law in Uganda, raising awareness (partly through the All-Party Parliamentary Uganda Group), and offering practical and financial help for surviving victims and their families.

Mr Leonard said: “I was talking to David Alton about his human rights work and he told me about the work of Jubilee Campaign, which he launched in parliament in 1987.

“Everything happened very quickly from that discussion and the day after my last university exam I was on a plane to Uganda.”

  • Anonymous

    “Sacrificing children between the ages of about three and 12 is believed to bring wealth and prosperity and, with the growth of a Ugandan middle class, more people wanting to secure success for their businesses, buildings or factories are paying large sums of money to witch-doctors to do this. Other factors are police inadequacy and lack of regulation combining with widespread superstition and poor education.”

    Police inadequacy is not an important factor because child sacrifice is not a human weakness that must be permanently be attended to by police. Similarly, lack of regulation is not an important factor if this refers to regulations regarding child sacrifice.

    It is difficult to see how education could be anything but poor if, as in the UK, it is influenced by superstition. Unfounded beliefs, such as that sacrifice brings prosperity (to anyone other than those paid to do it) are the core problem. And why should anyone give any credence to these beliefs when they are not only based on no evidence, but contradict existing evidence? Well, for one thing, that is precisely the attitude that is encouraged by religious institutions.

    If your particular religion does not support child sacrifice, nor similar practices such as ‘honour killing’ (see Abrahamic scriptures), but implies that it is OK to moralise without a basis of evidence, then your religion is just as flawed as these Ugandan versions.

  • Zether

    I think you’ll find that police inadequacy is very much a problem in the area, as is human weakness, such as, in this case, self-serving greed (to name but one). Which is one of the sins the Church speaks out about.

    I find it amusing that you are blaming the terrible state of education in the UK on ‘superstition’. I assume you mean Christianity, although this makes zero sense as Christian schools are the undisputed best in the country, by far, and secular schools get worse every day. Oh yeah, and don’t forget – it was priests who founded Oxford, Cambridge, and pretty much all the most respected universities.

    Your pathetic attempt to somehow make this our fault, especially as we are trying to stamp it out (see article), is hilarious. So we encourage child sacrifice, do we? What where you saying about evidence? Care to present any? No, I know you don’t have any because atheists only like to *say* they are evidence based, in reality you have nothing but rhetoric.

    We have a morality (And I think you’ll find, a fair amount of evidence, including witness statements from a number of reputable people as evidence). And a damn fine one at that.

    You? You have no morality of your own. This is probably why you think it’s sensible to compare child-sacrifice and ‘honour killings’ (which are cultural, by the way, and have no basis in religion) with what we do and the rules we live by. Not only does your conclusion that we are on an equal footing with these people go against the all the evidence, it shows us just how morally bankrupt and bigoted you really are.

  • TreenonPoet

    “I think you’ll find that police inadequacy is very much a problem in the area, as is human weakness, such as, in this case, self-serving greed (to name but one). Which is one of the sins the Church speaks out about.”

    I am sure that you are right there, but I still maintain that police inadequacy is not a cause of child sacrifice. If the belief in efficacious child sacrifice was not there, the sacrifices would not take place, though I agree that greed would remain.

    “I find it amusing that you are blaming the terrible state of education in the UK on ‘superstition’. I assume you mean Christianity, although this makes zero sense as Christian schools are the undisputed best in the country, by far, and secular schools get worse every day. Oh yeah, and don’t forget – it was priests who founded Oxford, Cambridge, and pretty much all the most respected universities.”

    I am not putting all the blame for the state of education in the UK on superstition; I am saying that education cannot be good if it is influenced by superstition. It is tainted by irrationality. This applies whatever the superstition, not just to Christianity. If the best schools in the country suffer this handicap, then even they could be better. I don’t want to get into an argument about which schools are best, nor what relevance the founders of schools and colleges have to present day knowledge/politics.

    “Your pathetic attempt to somehow make this our fault, especially as we are trying to stamp it out (see article), is hilarious. So we encourage child sacrifice, do we? What where you saying about evidence? Care to present any? No, I know you don’t have any because atheists only like to *say* they are evidence based, in reality you have nothing but rhetoric.”

    Attempts to stamp out the problem are less likely to succeed if it is not recognised what the core problem is. In referring to Abrahamic scriptures and ‘honour killing’, I had in mind verses such as Mark 7:10 and Matthew 15:4 for Christianity, and similar verses in the Torah and Qur’an. But my target was more generally the morality blindness that can result when religious faith trumps reason. If one discusses whether a given action is good or bad, how can one justify one’s position without applying reason?

    “We have a morality (And I think you’ll find, a fair amount of evidence, including witness statements from a number of reputable people as evidence). And a damn fine one at that.”

    I don’t dispute that some of your general principles are good. (Some others are not so good.) I would guess that you recognise those parts of the Christian Bible that are best ignored. The process by which you make that selection cannot therfore be based on the Bible, but on something else. That something else is the sort of evidence that I was referring to. (I was not referring to the evidence for the existence of a supreme law-giver; one would not be able to determine whether it was supreme or not anyway.)

  • http://twitter.com/donp07 DonP

    this is where knowledge goes bad….you are there already..