THE DEVIL'S WORK?? Burned, Beaten, Cut with Knives.A New Police Report Claims That Child Abuse, and Even Murder, Is Practised in Some of Britain's African Churches. but What IS the Truth? the Mail Investigates

Daily Mail (London), June 17, 2005 | Go to article overview

THE DEVIL'S WORK?? Burned, Beaten, Cut with Knives.A New Police Report Claims That Child Abuse, and Even Murder, Is Practised in Some of Britain's African Churches. but What IS the Truth? the Mail Investigates


Byline: SUE REID

THE HORROR films are piled high on the market stall in South London. At [pounds sterling]3 each, they are a bargain for those with an appetite for this particular kind of video nasty.

But these are not Hollywood fiction. They are real. And what they show is terrified children, accused of being witches, being 'freed of their demons' at church exorcisms.

In one scene, a white-robed pastor hits a five-year-old boy with a long stick as the congregation murmur their approval. In another, a glassy-eyed teenage girl faints on the floor as if overcome with terror by the ceremony.

Unbelievably, some of this frightening film footage was captured here in Britain. It records scenes which police believe are being repeated week after week at hundreds of new 'breakaway' churches serving African communities up and down the land.

These churches peddle a mixture of evangelical Christianity and traditional African religions in an intoxicating - and some say downright dangerous - blend of fundamentalist worship.

Here, it seems, children accused of being witches undergo exorcisms which leave them frightened or physically harmed in what is nothing less than ritual child abuse.

Yet something much worse may be happening, too. Police fear that African boys are being smuggled into Britain to be offered as human sacrifices by the fundamentalist churches and their followers.

A shocking report on these matters considered so racially sensitive that it remained unpublished by Scotland Yard until leaked to the BBC yesterday - says it is now feared that countless children from Africa are being trafficked here by gangs to be used as domestic and sex slaves or even offered up in the rituals.

The report was commissioned by the Metropolitan Police after the murder of Victoria Climbie, the eight-year-old girl brought to Britain from the Ivory Coast and 'exorcised of evil spirits' at a London church before being tortured then murdered by her great aunt.

The authors, a lawyer and a social worker, spent ten months up to March this year interviewing people living within the large African communities of East London's Newham and Hackney. In Newham alone there are 101 fundamentalist churches, which attract countless thousands of followers.

What the authors claim is truly chilling. One telling extract from the report says: 'A number of pastors maintain that God speaks through them and lets them know when someone is possessed. It is therefore their duty to deliver the child or adult from the evil spirit.' And that usually means subjecting them to horrific ordeals.

Only this month, an Angolan woman, Sita Kisanga, was convicted at the Old Bailey of cruelty to a young girl, whom she damned as a witch. She was a member of a church in Dalston, East London, where a concoction of evangelical Christianity and African spiritual beliefs is practised at large Sunday and midweek services.

The little girl - called only Child B in court to protect her identity gave evidence on video holding a doll.

She told how she was cut with knives 43 times, beaten with a shoe, temporarily blinded by chilli peppers rubbed into her eyes, and put in a plastic laundry bag to 'rid her of the Devil'.

Her case is far from unique. An investigation by the Mail has revealed that a belief in 'ndoki' - the African name for black magic - is a growing trend in Britain that could be endangering the lives of dozens of innocent children.

In London, police have identified 31 instances of youngsters being named as witches over the past five years. Furthermore, five other cases of child abuse fuelled by belief in witchcraft - three in London and two in provincial cities where there are sizeable African communities are now being investigated by social workers and police.

Because of forthcoming legal action against the perpetrators, we cannot disclose exactly where these occurred. …

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