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Plans to tackle witchcraft-based child abuse welcomed

TORTURE: Eric Bikubi and Magalie Bamu killed Kristy Bamu

ANTI-CHILD cruelty campaigners have welcomed government plans to tackle child abuse linked to witchcraft or religion in England.

The National Action Plan to Tackle Child Abuse Linked to Faith or Belief was drawn up with faith leaders, charities, the police and social workers.

Ministers say its key aims are to raise awareness and set out “urgent practical steps to identify and protect children at risk.”

The plan urges closer engagement with local communities and churches, better training for social workers and police and better psychological and therapeutic support for victims.

It also aims to secure more prosecutions by supporting victims to give evidence in court and increase awareness of how faith-based abuse links with other crimes, such as child trafficking and sexual exploitation.

A spokesperson for London based charity Africans Unite Against Child Abuse (AFRUCA), said: “AFRUCA welcomes the publication of the UK National Action Plan to tackle child abuse linked to faith or belief. We are happy that the Government is taking this initial step to address the issue of branding children as witches or as possessed by evil spirits. We at AFRUCA will continue to work with partners in the statutory and voluntary sectors, with community organisations across the country, as well as internationally to address this issue, including campaigning for a change in legislation to protect vulnerable children.”

He added: “It is our firm belief that culture and religion should never be an excuse to abuse children. Based on this, our efforts to address this issue in different ways as part of the National Action Plan will continue unabated.”

The launch of the plan earlier this month follows the recent high-profile case of Kristy Bamu in December 2010. Kristy was accused by his sister and her boyfriend of practising "kindoki" or witchcraft and casting spells, during a visit from Congo over Christmas. He suffered appalling abuse and torture for three days before drowning in a bath.

Although high profile cases like these have raised awareness of the problem, experts fear much more of this kind of abuse is hidden.

Children's Minister Tim Loughton said: "Child abuse is appalling and unacceptable wherever it occurs and whatever form it takes. Abuse linked to faith or belief in spirits, witchcraft or possession is a horrific crime, condemned by people of all cultures, communities and faiths - but there has been a 'wall of silence' around its scale and extent. There can never be a blind eye turned to violence or emotional abuse or even the smallest risk that religious beliefs will lead to young people being harmed."

Mor Dioum, director of the Victoria Climbie Foundation UK, also welcomed the plan. He said: “By bringing the issue into the open we can better protect and support members of our communities when they seek to highlight their concerns. However, we need to work more effectively with families to achieve better outcomes for children.” and young people affected by this type of abuse."

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