Belief in witchcraft and demonic possession linked to 1,500 child abuse cases

Witchcraft and demonic possession are linked to almost 1,500 child abuse cases a year, the first Government statistics on the topic show.

Experts warned that an increasing number of children were being abused by adults who want to “get the devil out of them”.

Figures released by the Department for Education show that 1,460 cases in England included concerns about abuse which was “linked to faith and belief” during the year to March 2017.

Of the cases 310 took place in the North West, 240 took place in London and 220 were in the West Midlands.

The largest single figure for any local authority was 86 cases, which was recorded for Lancashire.

Charities said the figure was likely to be an underestimate because local authorities did not have enough awareness to spot the likely signs of abuse.

Justin Humphreys, executive director of safeguarding at the Churches’ Child Protection Advisory Service, told the Church Times that there was “limited understanding” of the warning signs.

He said: “The data presented by the Government reflects the reports to the Education Select Committee 2012 that an increasing number of children in the UK are being harmed in the belief that ‘it will get the devil out of them’.

“We should be taking this as a call to re-energise the national effort to educate communities and professionals and safeguard all our children.”

Until now all data showing the scale of the issue had been released by police forces or under the Freedom of Information Act.

Figures released by the Metropolitan Police in 2014 showed that it had dealt with 148 cases since 2004.

The new figures suggest that the issue is more widespread than previously thought.

Research carried out by the charity alongside Manchester Metropolitan University earlier this year found that only one in three professionals working with children and families were confident they could spot the signs of child abuse.

In 2012 the Government launched a national action plan to tackle the issuefollowing the murder of Kristy Bamu, a 15-year-old boy who was accused of witchcraft.

He was killed by his sister Magalie Bamu and her partner Eric Bikubi, on Christmas Day in 2010 following days of torture.

The boy drowned in a bath during an exorcism and Bikubi said he believed the child was a witch. Both were jailed for life.

The guidance states that such abuse includes the belief that children are witches or possessed by a spirit, demon or the devil, as well as “ritual or muti murders where the killing of children is believed to bring supernatural benefits or the use of their body parts is believed to produce potent magical remedies”.

In other cases, the guidance said, magic or witchcraft is used “to create fear in children to make them more compliant when they are being trafficked for domestic slavery or sexual exploitation”.

Examples include the superstition that calling a wrong number can bring malevolent spirits into the home.

Children can also be scapegoated for misfortune which has befallen other members of the family, such as unemployment or poverty.

The guidance came about following concerns raised about belief in witchcraft among “migrant African communities in England”, the document said.

The action plan included the establishment of a working group meant to tackle the issue but Mr Humphreys said it was not receiving enough attention.

The Government had “pretty much withdrawn any tangible support” for implementing the plan, he said.

A Government spokesman said: “Children must be kept safe, and no belief system can justify the abuse of a child.

“The Department for Education is investing up to £1.5 million to tackle child abuse and support charities such as Barnardo’s in their work to tackle abuse linked to faith or belief.

“Those responsible for child abuse linked to faith or belief would be subject to prosecution. Our statutory guidance is crystal clear that anyone who has concerns about a child’s welfare should report this to children’s social care or the police.”

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/11/24/belief-witchcraft-demonic-possession-linked-1500-child-abuse/amp/

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