London - The Metropolitan Police and child protection experts are stepping up the investigation on the extent of alleged child abuses linked to the practice of exorcism among evangelical African churches across the UK. The move comes in the wake of a cruel offence unveiled last week in the Old Bailey.
According to the Telepraph, three adults were found guilty by the Court on Friday over the torture of a girl in Hackney, east London, two years ago, after she was forced to admit she had been involved in witchcraft.
The girl, now 10 years old, was cut with a knife, beaten with a belt and had chilli peppers rubbed in her eyes to "beat the devil out of her". One of the girl’s relatives, Sita Kisanga, was a regular at an African protestant church with roots in the Congo called Combat Spirituel, based in Dalston, east London. Police found a note on Kisanga’s diary which suggested that she found out the little girl's "possession" through a prayer meeting.
The case has highlighted the emergence in Britain of extreme evangelical religious cultures from African countries, in which some people believe that children can be beaten to rid them of suspected demons, according to Telegraph.
In fact, the rumour regarding exorcism has been spreading among African communities and churches in London since March, and the Police have already started probes over some cases of so-called "faith crimes" involving child abuses.
Experts say exorcism is generally related to the belief culture of African countries like the Congo and Angola. It has raised increasing concern of evangelical church and community leaders as well as child protection charities.
A new unit called Project Violet had been set up to protect children from abuse as the result of religious or cultural beliefs.
In March, BBC Newsnight's study found that the problem is often being understated by local authorities. A third of all London boroughs did no work at all on the issue of the effects of child exorcisms.
Yesterday Detective Superintendent Chris Bourlet, head of the Metropolitan Child Abuse Command, admitted that there is practical nuisance for the Police to deal with the issue as most of cases happen in small churches, or even in some private gatherings in people’s houses.
Mary Marsh, Director of the UK’s leading child protection charity, National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC), yesterday told the BBC that the case is "horrific".
So far, the African and Caribbean Evangelical Alliance (ACEA) has not yet responded to the case. But in a statement dated 1st March, Rev Katei Kirby, General Manager of the ACEA said, "A lot of good work has been done in the area of child protection but we still need to ensure that churches and local agencies have a better understanding of each other's role in the community."
"ACEA sees co-operation with church leaders, social services and the police as an important step in ensuring churches in this country are safe places for children to attend and that no practice within the church leads to abuse in the home. Building on our work with the NSPCC and organisations such as AFRUCA (Africans Against Child Abuse), we want to make sure that everyone concerned is aware of child protection issues and have policies and procedures in place."
Rev Joel Edwards, General Director of the Evangelical Alliance UK also declared, "The Evangelical Alliance and the African and Caribbean Evangelical Alliance reject any practice that leads to the physical, psychological or emotional abuse of children. The welfare of children cannot be compromised." [Emphasis added]
Rev Edwards, while acknowledged the biblical basis of exorcism and its long-standing historical existence in different branches of Christian church, he stressed, "…churches undertaking this kind of ministry should be scrupulous and transparent, exercising discernment between spiritual and psychological needs and act in the best interests of the individuals concerned. The practice of exorcism is not only a challenge to the church it is also a reminder of the reality of evil with which our society is often ill at ease."
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