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article imageChurch children beaten and branded for ‘witchcraft’

By Andrew John     Jul 26, 2010 in World
Campaigners say children are increasingly being accused of witchcraft by preachers in the UK, and can face beatings, brandings and being physically restrained.
The Independent carries a report that quotes police as saying the horrific cases that come to light are just the tip of the iceberg.
“The very accusation of being a witch can result in children being starved, tortured, beaten, stabbed or even, as in the case of Victoria Climbié, murdered,” says the paper, adding that it’s “an increasing problem.”
Climbié was abused and murdered by her guardians and died in 2000, leading to a public outcry that in turn led to major changes in child-protection policies in the country.
The Independent quotes Jason Morgan, a detective based at the Metropolitan Police’s child-protection unit, known as Project Violet, as saying: “It is a hidden crime that is very difficult to measure. There may well be a large number of cases that never come to light … it is a national problem,” he added.
And Debbie Ariyo, the founder of Africans Unite against Child Abuse, is quoted as saying: “This is a growing problem and we are seeing more of it. At the very least, we are talking about dozens of cases every year.”
The organization says it dealt with 10 cases last year in which children had been accused of being witches or possessed by “evil spirits” and beaten by parents who were confronted by “challenging behaviour” in their children.
“In another case a disabled child was burnt with an iron in an attempt to get rid of the evil spirit blamed for the condition,” the paper says.
The report, which says there are 4,000 African churches in Britain, claims a church leader used the fear of witches to obtain sexual favours.
Kay (not her real name) began worshipping at the Faith and Victory Church in London when she was 13. Her mother had died several years before and her father was being treated for kidney failure. Kay claimed that in 2008, when she had turned 18, her pastor said she would need to sleep with him 21 times to rid her family of the witchcraft that caused their problems. Kay said: “It felt as if I was being raped.”
The Independent quotes Bishop Dr Joe Aldred, secretary of minority ethnic Christian affairs at Churches Together in England, as saying: “At the moment you can set up a church anywhere, any time … in the same way we wouldn’t tolerate somebody setting themselves up as a lawyer or surgeon without proper training and regulation, we shouldn’t expose the souls of people to anybody who happens to think they can set up a church.”
A Channel 4 documentary in its Dispatches series called Britain’s Witch Children is due to be broadcast tonight at 8 o’clock, British time.
The programme goes undercover and exposes pastors who, say the programme makers, exploit religious beliefs and, in some cases, claim evil spirits in some people bring bad luck into the lives of others.
More about Witch children, African churches, Witchcraft, Evil spirits, Possession
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