Churches challenge Channel 4 bias but condemn rogue pastors child abuse claims
By Davina Kirwan
Channel 4’s recent Dispatches programme, Britain’s Witch Children, [see Related Articles below] picked an ugly scab from a deep wound: it highlighted the regular but hidden extent of the faith-based abuse of children within ‘rogue’ elements of African churches.
The programme exposed a belief in witchcraft by some UK African churches, where pastors allege that congregation members are possessed by evil spirits and bring bad luck into the lives of others.
Traumatic exorcisms follow the accusations with pastors allegedly charging large sums of money to perform ‘deliverances’. The programme claimed that children are often denounced as witches, leading to physical and emotional abuse and even death at the hands of their families.
The Evangelical Alliance, Churches Together in England and the Churches’ Child Protection Advisory Services – all disappointed they were not approached to add context to the findings of the Dispatches investigation – promptly issued a joint response, which condemned “the abuse or encouraging the abuse of children, in particular, any church that brands children as witches or demon-possessed”.
Dr Joe Aldred, secretary of Minority Ethnic Christian Affairs, told OBV that he was not downplaying the problem that Dispatches had drawn attention to. He said:
“The vast majority of African churches in the UK do not subscribe to these practices. What angers me about the Dispatches programme is the way in which they – having highlighted a worthy problem that needs to be tackled – implied that this practice is representative of the 4000 African churches in the UK.”
Charity Africans Unite Against Child Abuse (Afruca) has called on the government to ban the branding of children as witches and is consulting on proposals for a new law. Afruca executive director, Debbie Ariyo, said:
“Our position at Afruca is always that culture and religion should never be a reason to abuse children. [Rogue pastors’] motives are monetary…the terrible consequences of their evil acts on children can no longer be ignored.”
“Branding a child as a witch is an incitement to harm and abuse children,” She continued. “It leads to physical and emotional abuse as well as neglect of the children in question. Of equal concern…are the abusive exorcism rites performed on children who are so branded by some pastors and other faith workers. These rites lead to extreme harm and suffering…and has caused the death of at least one child in the UK.” Concluded Ms Ariyo.
The belief in demon possession and the occult points to the prevalence of practices within the Christian religion on the whole; practices that are not just characteristics of ‘rogue’, African churches.
The Roman Catholic Church and the Vatican have a history of performing exorcisms. In March 2010, the Telegraph published an interview [see article below] with Father Gabriele Amorth, the Vatican’s chief exorcist, who stated:
“His Holiness believes wholeheartedly in the practice of exorcism. He has encouraged and praised our work.”
Last month, US publication, the Huffington Post interviewed Exorcist writer William Peter Blatty, he said:
“The research I’ve done convinces me there were 2 or 3 cases in the 20th Century in which the Catholic Church in the United States, after exhaustive investigation involving internal medicine and psychiatry, authorized the ritual of exorcism.”
Dr Aldred highlights that,
“most of the mainstream churches that one would not associate with spiritualism rightly or wrongly acknowledge the existence or presence of demonic forces. The Church of England has an exorcising priest in each diocese.”
While a belief in divine and spiritual forces is at the root of all religion, activists agree that key measures are needed to eliminate the mechanisms used by charlatans to abuse vulnerable members of religious congregations. Exploitation in this way can lead to abhorrent practices which survive along generations because of normalisations such as branding regular unruly teenage behaviour as ‘spirit-possession’ – initiating queues of children being sent to services for ‘deliverance’.
While not an advocate of laws in this area, Dr Aldred feels that a three-pronged approach is needed to protect children from faith-based abuse. He concluded:
“Firstly, every church and church agency should provide training in child protection matters. Second, every church should register with a bona fide ecumenical agency for accountability. And third, churches that operate in isolation should be strongly discouraged and any pastor found abusing children should face the full force of the law.”
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The Telgraph - U.K. March 11, 2010
Chief exorcist says Devil is in Vatican
The Devil is lurking in the very heart of the Roman Catholic Church, the Vatican's chief exorcist claimed on Wednesday.
By Nick Squires in Rome
Father Gabriele Amorth said people who are possessed by Satan vomit shards of glass and pieces of iron.
He added that the assault on Pope Benedict XVI on Christmas Eve by a mentally unstable woman and the sex abuse scandals which have engulfed the Church in the US, Ireland, Germany and other countries, were proof that the Anti-Christ was waging a war against the Holy See.
"The Devil resides in the Vatican and you can see the consequences," said Father Amorth, 85, who has been the Holy See's chief exorcist for 25 years.
"He can remain hidden, or speak in different languages, or even appear to be sympathetic. At times he makes fun of me. But I'm a man who is happy in his work."
While there was "resistance and mistrust" towards the concept of exorcism among some Catholics, Pope Benedict XVI has no such doubts, Father Amorth said. "His Holiness believes wholeheartedly in the practice of exorcism. He has encouraged and praised our work," he added.
The evil influence of Satan was evident in the highest ranks of the Catholic hierarchy, with "cardinals who do not believe in Jesus and bishops who are linked to the demon," Father Amorth said.
In a rare insight into the world of exorcism, the Italian priest told La Repubblica newspaper that the 1973 film The Exorcist gave a "substantially exact" impression of what it was like to be possessed by the Devil.
People possessed by evil sometimes had to be physically restrained by half a dozen people while they were exorcised. They would scream, utter blasphemies and spit out sharp objects, he said.
"From their mouths, anything can come out – pieces of iron as long as a finger, but also rose petals," said Father Amorth, who claims to have performed 70,000 exorcisms. "When the possessed dribble and slobber, and need cleaning up, I do that too. Seeing people vomit doesn't bother me. The exorcist has one principal duty - to free human beings from the fear of the Devil."
The attempted assassination of Pope John Paul II by a Turkish gunman in 1981 and recent revelations of "violence and paedophilia" committed by Catholic priests against children in their care was also the work of the Devil, said Father Amorth, who has written a book about his vocation, Memoirs of an Exorcist, which was published recently.
Father Amorth, who is the president of the Association of Exorcists and fought as a partisan during the war, has previously claimed that both Hitler and Stalin were possessed by the Devil.
In an interview with Vatican Radio in 2006, he said: "Of course the Devil exists and he can not only possess a single person but also groups and entire populations.
"I am convinced that the Nazis were all possessed. All you have to do is think about what Hitler and Stalin did."
He also condemned the Harry Potter books, saying they were dangerous because they dabbled in the occult and failed to draw a clear distinction between "the Satanic art" of black magic and benevolent white magic.
This article was found at:
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