Call to tackle witchcraft pastors

Campaigners are calling for a change in the law to make it a criminal offence to demonise a child, it is reported.

The move comes after police told the BBC that they were unable to charge an African pastor who accused children of witchcraft in this country.

Pastor Dieudonne Tukala was arrested on suspicion of inciting child cruelty last January following a joint investigation by the Today programme and Newsnight.

A BBC investigation broadcast last year connected Pastor Dieudonne Tukala to a case where a father branded his son with an iron because he believed the child was a witch.

It also spoke to other parents who said Tukala told them to send their children back to Africa where he could pray for them to die.

In an interview broadcast on Today and Newsnight on Thursday night, the Pastor denies having accused children of witchcraft or of having seen the boy who was branded with a steam iron.

So-called “child witches” have been murdered in some African countries.

The Metropolitan Police launched an inquiry, but after 10 months of investigation no charges have been brought. It is not against the law to accuse a child of witchcraft or to pray for a child to die.

Debbie Ariyo, director of the charity AFRUCA told Today: “You’re telling a child that you’ve been responsible for killing people, destroying people’s lives – that does actually constitute emotional abuse.”

Asked if religious leaders who accuse a child of witchcraft should face jail, Ms Ariyo said: “I think they should.”

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Religion News Blog posted this on Thursday January 25, 2007.
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