Prosecute pastors who accuse children of witchcraft, campaigners say

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

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 him 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 a BBC interview for Today and Newsnight, 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.”

Since January 2000, the Metropolitan Police has dealt with 88 allegations of what it calls ritualistic abuse.

As yet no pastor has been charged as a result of their involvement.

The only cases to come to court have tried parents or carers. Those cases included that of Victoria Climbie, who died of hypothermia aged eight, at the hands of her great aunt Marie Therese Kouao and boyfriend Carl Manning at their north London bedsit home in February 2000.

Kouao claimed the little girl’s death was due to witchcraft. Both she and Manning were sentenced to life imprisonment after being convicted of murder.

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(Listed if other than Religion News Blog)
Evening Standard, UK
Jan. 25, 2007

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This post was last updated: Friday, December 16, 2016 at 9:46 AM, Central European Time (CET)