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Last Updated: Thursday, 20 September 2007, 04:34 GMT 05:34 UK
Fund to fight 'witchcraft' abuse
By Angus Crawford
Home Affairs, BBC News

Victoria Climbie
Victoria Climbie was tortured to death partly because of witchcraft
Two charities are donating 450,000 to help African children in the UK who are accused of witchcraft and abused.

The BBC has learned the City Parochial Foundation and the Trust for London are giving the money to help improve child protection and a family support centre.

The practice of accusing children of being possessed and then carrying out often violent exorcisms has followed some migrant communities to the UK.

Last year, a government-funded report identified 38 such cases of abuse.

Major faiths

In Democratic Republic of Congo and surrounding countries, thousands of unregulated churches have been set up mixing traditional beliefs and extreme revivalist Christianity.

In recent years the practice of accusing children of being possessed and then carrying out often violent exorcisms has become commonplace.

In Kinshasa, the capital of DRC, thousands of children live on the streets after being thrown out of their homes following claims of "Kindoki" or "Ndoki", which means witchcraft.

Government-funded research in the UK has shown that the practice has also followed some migrant communities.

Possession claims

In June 2005 after a trial at the Old Bailey three people were sent to prison for abusing a child they claimed was possessed by evil spirits.

The child, who cannot be named, had been stabbed, beaten and had chilli peppers rubbed in her eyes.

Five years earlier eight-year-old Victoria Climbie was tortured to death - her killers attacked her in part because they believed her to be possessed.

When she died she had 128 individual injuries.

The initiative... will enable them to contribute to the safety, quality of life and well being of children and to promote children's rights
Bharat Mehta, City Parochial Foundation chief executive

Last year, the report funded by the Department for Education and Skills, said it was not possible to give an accurate picture of the extent of the problem.

But it concluded belief in spirit possession was common to all the major faiths.

Cases were identified in different racial and religious groups.

Project funding

The BBC has learned that two London-based charitable trusts are now so concerned about the problem they are to give 450,000 to four groups working to combat the problem.

The City Parochial Foundation and the Trust for London are giving the money to AFRUCA (Africans Unite against Child Abuse), the UK Congolese Safeguarding Action Group, The Churches Child Protection Advisory Service and The Victoria Climbie Foundation.

The move came after African community groups approached the charities requesting help to fund grass roots projects.

The money should help pay for more education, training and research. It will fund a support centre for families from the DRC and neighbouring countries.

"The initiative... will enable them to contribute to the safety, quality of life and well being of children and to promote children's rights," according to Bharat Mehta who is chief executive of City Parochial Foundation and the Trust for London.

The charities say they are helping these groups as part of their Safeguarding Children's Rights initiative.

But they point out that though the money is to help African children, child abuse linked to a belief in possession occurs in a range of different faith groups based in the UK.


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