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Last Updated: Thursday, 6 July 2006, 05:47 GMT 06:47 UK
Call for church child-safety vet
Some African-led churches have been accused of child cruelty
People who want to set up churches should be vetted to ensure the safety of children, a children's charity says.

Afruca is set to make the call at a conference about the role of faith groups in child protection.

It follows a string of allegations about violent exorcisms of children in some African churches and high-profile "witchcraft" court cases.

Debbie Ariyo of Afruca said there was currently no way of regulating many places of worship.

Churches and other faith organisations only came under the scope of independent authorities if they were registered charities, according to Ms Ariyo.

"Places of worship must become sanctuaries for vulnerable children. We need to work hand-in-hand with our faith communities for the protection of our children," she said.

Community involvement

The conference in London will tackle a range of issues including physical punishment in Islamic schools, witchcraft and exorcism in African churches and the role of faith organisations in combating child trafficking.

It will be attended by representatives of African churches and Muslim groups as well as police officers from the Metropolitan's dedicated child abuse unit and other bodies involved in child protection.

Debbie Ariyo
Debbie Ariyo said cultural aspects of trafficking problem must be tackled

The event is part of a wider initiative by Afruca to get African communities involved in ensuring the welfare of children brought to the UK.

A seminar next week attended by community members, immigration officials and an anti-slavery organisation will focus on child trafficking in African communities in the UK.

Debbie Ariyo said one of the main problem was that some forms of trafficking were not condemned clearly enough by communities.

"The first thing we need to do is look at the cultural aspect where people don't see anything wrong in using children or young people as domestic servants.

"They are often exploited or abused in the home and other people know about it but most of the time they don't feel they have a role to play in safeguarding the young people," she said.


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