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EDITIONS
 Friday, 22 March, 2002, 05:28 GMT
Churches a 'danger to children'
Victoria Climbie
One pastor thought Victoria was possessed, not abused
The UK's leading Christian child protection service has warned that churches can be very dangerous places for children.

The Churches' Child Protection Advisory Service (CCAPS) says that in many churches and Christian groups, procedures to safeguard children are lax.

In the worst cases, the churches are accused of colluding in child abuse.

The documents outlining these fears are to be presented to the Victoria Climbie inquiry on Friday and have been shown to BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

'No training'

Victoria died in February 2000 after months of abuse by her carers - her great-aunt Marie Therese Kouao and Kouao's boyfriend, Carl Manning.

Her death came despite regular contact with four local authorities, two police child protection teams, two hospitals and social workers.

The second Victoria Climbie Inquiry Phase Two seminar is on Friday, as part of the five-meeting series debating changes to the UK's child protection system.

This seminar will discuss the role of the nation's churches in identifying the needs of children at risk.
Victoria and her great-aunt Kouao
Kouao abused Victoria

During the first phase of the inquiry, which focused on Victoria's case, it was revealed that preachers at three churches failed to notice that Victoria was in danger.

The eight-year-old was taken to churches by Kouao and one pastor who saw Victoria admitted to the inquiry, in October, that he had believed the little girl was possessed.

Pascal Orome, of the Mission Ensemble Pour Christ church, Borough, south London, said: "What I had heard did not sound like a medical problem. I thought it would more likely be a spiritual problem."

A survey of theological colleges by the CCAPS found that only half of the respondents offered child protection training to future ministers.

Among those attending the seminar is CCAPS director David Pearson, who has helped provide many churches with comprehensive training on this issue.

  WATCH/LISTEN
  ON THIS STORY
  David Pearson, Churches Child Protection Advisor
"There are churches who are irresponsible"
  The Archbishop of Cardiff Peter Smith
"We do need to become more aware of the dangers"

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