The United Kingdom’s Department of Education has released a national action plan for dealing with cases of witchcraft and occult-related abuse of children within religious communities. This comes after several high-profile cases of murder and abuse of children related to anti-witchcraft rituals, most prominently the murder of Kristy Bamu, who died while being tortured under the auspices of an “exorcism” at his sister’s home.
During sentencing, Judge David Paget said the murder had a “sadistic element”, adding it was “prolonged torture involving mental and physical suffering being inflicted before death”. He added that the ordeal the children were subjected to “almost passes belief”. However, he accepted Bikubi’s defence that he had brain damage and had believed that Kristy was a witch. But Judge Paget added: “The belief in witchcraft, however genuine, cannot excuse an assault to another person, let alone the killing of another human being.”
Children’s Minister Tim Loughton told the BBC that “abuse linked to faith or belief in spirits, witchcraft or possession is a horrific crime, condemned by people of all cultures, communities and faiths,” while Andrew Flanagan of the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) goes out of his way to note that this isn’t a problem within communities that actually believe in and practice witchcraft or magic as part of their religious faith.
“The vast majority of people in communities where witchcraft is practised are horrified by these acts and take no part in this atrocious behaviour. So we must not be afraid to raise this issue so the offenders can be exposed.”
Despite the desperate and craven attempts by some in the media to wrongly conflate modern Paganism with this issue, this is a largely a phenomenon that is nurtured within a Christian context, a point that has many ministers in the UK deeply concerned. In fact some, like Debbie Ariyo, director of Africans Unite Against Child Abuse, wants explicit laws against branding children as witches.
Debbie Ariyo, the director of Africans Unite Against Child Abuse, described the action plan as the first step taken by any government to seriously tackle ritualised child abuse, but said it was not going far enough. She called on the government to make it illegal to brand a child a witch. “We would have liked to see the government go further but we believe this action plan will go a long way to encouraging voluntary agencies to take concrete steps to fight this type of abuse,” she said.
Ariyo has previously noted that the spread of anti-witchcraft and sorcery violence in the UK is centered in Pentecostal Churches, not indigenous, revived, or reconstructed pre-Christian belief systems.
Debbie Ariyo, executive director of Africans Unite Against Child Abuse(Afruca), who added that a boom in pentecostal churches was leading to more children being accused of witchcraft. “This is not a problem with all pastors or all churches, but the branding of children as witches is not abating. It is a growing problem. There are so many children suffering in silence.”
This new initiative joins recent moves by British police to better spot sorcery/witchcraft-related abuse cases, and has so-far been widely praised as an important step forward on an issue that many believe is under-reported to law enforcement. Modern Pagans, practitioners of African indigenous faiths living in the UK, and other occult-oriented communities should take a proactive stance on involving themselves in assisting the government, and pushing for laws that criminalize the abuse of children because of occult-oriented religious beliefs. Not only because it’s a good idea, but because our input will be important to make sure future laws and regulation thread the needle between protecting children while safeguarding the rights of those interested in religious Witchcraft or occult practices.