'Britain’s witch children', a Channel 4 television Dispatches documentary shown on Monday 26 July, was disturbing and revealing.
In it, an undercover reporter helped to expose how, in some African churches in the UK, children are labelled as witches or told they are possessed, then “exorcised” if their parents pay.
Such practices can be traumatic, and may lead to rejection or violence by family members. Campaigners such as Africans Unite Against Child Abuse (UK) have brought such abuses to public attention but the authorities have been reluctant to act against pastors, who are often looked up to in the community.
I was rather disappointed that the programme-makers (http://www.channel4.com/programmes/dispatches/episode-guide/series-67/ep... ) did not include brief clips of other, wiser, African ministers explaining that such practices are profoundly un-Christian. And there was probably not enough time to draw parallels with what has happened in other churches where authoritarian leaders confuse their own impulses and desires with God’s will. But the documentary raised important issues, and will hopefully encourage action.
Police, child protection services and perhaps MPs, can help crack down on abuses. But Christians too can play a major part in challenging twisted theological views which are used to 'justify' child abuse, and insist – following Jesus’ teaching and example (Matthew 18.1-5, 10.13-15) – that children should be treated with kindness.
Savi Hensman is a regular Ekklesia contributor and Christian commentator. See: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/news/columns/hensman