We like to think that our modern world has done away with the concept of ‘evil witches’ and demonic possessions. Something that we outgrew with the age of reason. Think again. On Christmas Day in 2010, 15 year old Kristy Bamu was drowned in the bathtub, as the final stage of a brutal exorcism, by his older sister and brother-in-law, who were just convicted of murder in the UK. Eric Bikubi, 28, and Magalie Bamu, aged 29, from Newham, East London are to be sentenced next week for the crime.
Judge David Paget, who was presiding over his last trial before retiring, told the jury of seven women and five men the case was so “harrowing” he was exempting them from jury service for the rest of their lives.
“It is a case we will all remember,” he told them. “Court staff will speak to you and offer help to you.”
During the trial, jurors heard Kristy was in such pain after three days of attacks by Bikubi and Bamu, who used knives, sticks, metal bars and a hammer and chisel, that he “begged to die”, before slipping under the water.
The terror began when Kristy and two of his siblings left their home in the Dominican Republic to visit their sister for the holidays.
During the stay, Bikubi turned on them, accusing them of bringing “kindoki” – or witchcraft – into his home. He then beat all three of them and forced other children to join in with the attacks, the jury heard.
But it was Kristy who became the focus of the defendant’s attention, the prosecution said. Bamu and football coach Bikubi believed he had cast spells on another child in the family, the Old Bailey heard.
Kristy had refused to admit to sorcery and witchcraft and his punishments, in a “deliverance” ceremony, became more horrendous until he admitted to being a sorcerer.
Which proves that we will admit to anything under torture (but that’s another argument for another day).
The defence had argued Bikubi was mentally ill when he carried out the killing, with a scan of his brain showing lesions which “probably contributed to an abnormal mental state”.
However, the prosecution had rejected this as a plea to reduce the charge against him.
During her defence, Magalie Bamu told the jury Bikubi had forced her to join in the attack on the children.
But the court heard there was ample evidence to show she hit Kristy and “stoked the fire of violence” Bikubi had embarked on in the flat.
This is a horribly tragic story, primarily and superficially, about a couple that have been held accountable for their action as individuals. The argument was made, and rejected, that Bikubi’s mental illness was to blame for the crime. It was probably a factor, but would only be considered if he was unaware of the consequences of his actions. However, behind those actions is the invisible hand of religious belief.
The relation to religion is not to a specific set of beliefs, but to the entire concept of God and Satan. The belief in demonic possession or influence is strong many different sects of Christianity, particularly among the Roman Catholics and Evangelicals. It is also a belief in Islam. For believers, the problem is not that the exorcism was conducted, but that it was not conducted ‘properly’. A list of over 1,000 people harmed during exorcism can be found here.
The one common element in all exorcisms is the belief in the ability of supernatural agents to take over a human body, A belief that was formed aeons ago, and has no place in modern society. In my opinion, it is also an area where the so-called liberal churches enable the fundamentalists. While many adherents to these groups decry the concept of exorcisms, I can’t recall any rejections of the biblical tales of Jesus and his Apostles driving out demons from people.
I have been accused of being a ‘fundamentalist atheist’, a label that I wear with some measure of pride. Especially if it means that I am fundamentally opposed to the harmful effects of outmoded, unfounded, belief systems.