Most of us have read or heard about European colonists and Christian missionaries looting the treasures of Africa. That destruction and theft occurred a long time ago, but now, a new version of it is taking place. Pentecostal Christian Nigerians are destroying ancient artifacts in order to “break the covenant” with what they call “ancestral idols.” Costumes, bronzes and carvings have all been targeted.
Pentecostal Christianity has increased along with poverty in Nigeria during the last couple of decades. “Redemption camps” have sprung up in the country, attracting such famous pastors as Benny Hinn. The Rev. Dr. Uma Ukpai, a leader of the Pentecostal Church in Nigeria, is said to have told his followers that the ancient African religious artifacts represent “curses and covenants” linked to various gods.
Of course, there are forces in Nigeria that are fighting this trend. Some pieces have been sold to museums, and the National Commission for Museums and Monuments is conducting a campaign to explain to Christians that “they can’t detach themselves from their past, that there is a beginning to their history.” The commission is also asking for stricter enforcement of a law that prohibits the export of artifacts.