London's African communities challenge child abuse
A Channel 4 Dispatches programme [26 July 2010] has again highlighted the harm caused by labelling children as witches or 'possessed'. The Safeguarding Children's Rights initiative categorically condemns this and all forms of abuse, which it seeks to prevent. Established in 2007 by Trust for London, the initiative brings together key organisations and agencies tackling faith-based abuse in African communities in London. This includes AFRUCA, Africa Policy Research Network, Churches Child Protection Advisory Service, the UK Congolese Safeguarding Action Group and Victoria Climbié Foundation.
The independent evaluation of the initiative, by the Centre for Social Work Research (based at the Tavistock and Portman NHS Trust), shows that so far:
- Many African-led churches in London have engaged with child protection issues including undertaking training and making positive changes to systems and worship to improve the general safety and well-being of children in their congregations.
- The practices of a minority of 'rogue' churches and pastors are being challenged by African communities. This voice has been strengthened by community-led meetings and training for parents and young people.
- Specialist training has improved social work and health practitioners' knowledge and understanding of harmful cultural practices, which is critical to improved identification of abuse linked to spirit possession and witchcraft.
"Faith can be a sustaining force for people across all communities," says Baroness Howarth of Breckland, Chair of the initiative's Advisory Group, "Yet, while recognising the positive role that churches can play, we must never use religion and culture to justify or ignore harm to children. Trust for London's initiative has been critical in developing understanding of safeguarding in parts of the community that statutory services find hard to reach."
Trust for London has just agreed to extend the initiative for a further 18 months, with an additional investment of £232,000. Find out more about our special initiative.
The Dispatches programme is available to watch online for a month from the screening date. Visit Channel 4.