Byline: DIANE ABBOTT
BY DIANE ABBOTT MP for Hackney North
THREE adults have been convicted of horrific abuse of an eight-year-old African girl because they believed her to be possessed by demons - a case which raises questions most of us might prefer to tiptoe around.
Multiculturalism is one thing, but I draw the line at being asked to respect the views of people who believe in demonic possession. And multiculturalism should not be an excuse for failing to protect the innocent.
It also raises the question of how the state should relate to religion in 21st- century Britain and reminds us of the depressing fact that five years after another little African girl, Victoria Climbie, died (in almost exactly similar circumstances), and three years after a voluminous inquiry into her death, hardly any of its recommendations have been implemented.
Child B - as the girl in this latest case is called - was abused and tortured by her supposed adult "carers" who police believe had brought her here in 2002 to bolster their asylum claim from Angola.
But they were not merely sadists or under the influence of drink or drugs.
They were devout Christians who believed her to be possessed by demons.
Remarkably, one of the women involved - Sita Kasanga - was still insisting that the child was demonically possessed even after a long trial and conviction.
This is not an isolated case.
Dr Richard Hoskins, who prepared the report on witchcraft for the prosecution says: "There is cause to get worried.
This is the tip of an iceberg."
Community groups say they know of many other similar cases and it is alleged that hundreds of African children are being sent home for " exorcism" away from the prying eyes of British authorities.
Accusing children of demonic possession, together with brutal exorcism, is a recent trend in Africa which apparently is being imported here. It is a distortion of fundamentalist Christianity.
BLACK people have always been enthusiastic communicants in all our major Christian denominat ions.
But this new belief in demonic possession and physical exorcism is being peddled by a new type of church catering, almost exclusively, to the needs of the African community.
These churches often have loose ties to American evangelical churches but more often they are one-man (or one woman) operations. They flourish among some of the most marginalised elements of the community: recent immigrants, people living the twilight life of the asylum-seeker.
They often begin meeting in someone's home but quickly graduate to disused factories, railway arches or other cheap ex-industrial property. The desperately poor congregations somehow find money to donate. Anyone can set up one of these organisations.
Successful ones provide a good living for the "pastor".
There is no limit on what they can extract from their congregation. In return, the people get a sense of community, hope and some sort of explanation for the wretched circumstances of their lives. …