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Last Updated: Wednesday, 20 July, 2005, 00:26 GMT 01:26 UK
Black churches consulted on abuse
Victoria Climbie
Victoria Climbie's killers claimed she was possessed
Black church leaders are to attend a meeting with the children's minister to discuss ways of preventing child abuse in immigrant communities.

The meeting called by Beverley Hughes follows high-profile child abuse cases to which black churches say they have been unfairly linked.

Police officers and social workers will also be at the meeting on Wednesday.

A DfES spokesman said they hoped it would help them engage with "hard-to-reach" communities.

"We are currently working with our partners in the police, in voluntary and faith groups and in the community to better understand this complex issue. Following this discussion we'll set out the scope of any further research in this area," the spokesman said.

In June three Angolans were jailed for abusing a girl they claimed was a witch.

The case had echoes of that of Victoria Climbie from Ivory Coast who died in 2000 after being abused by her carers who claimed she was possessed.

'Stigmatise'

Last month a leaked report commissioned by the Metropolitan Police also raised the issue of alleged child abuse in some black churches which practice exorcism.

Media reporting of the leak was subsequently rebutted by the Met which said coverage was "sensationalist and did not represent the purpose or findings of the report".

Bishop Joe Aldred, black church spokesman for Churches Together in Britain and Ireland, will be at the Wednesday meeting at the Department for Education and Skills.

He said he hoped it would not help to further "stigmatise" black churches.

"Sometimes by simply having a meeting it can appear as though you are saying there is a problem.

"Whilst you cannot turn a blind eye to any suggestion this might be happening and we've had two or three case which worry us, it would quite wrong to give the impression that child abuse was the staple diet for black churches," Dr Aldred said,




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