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Last updated at 12:49 BST, Thursday, 16 August 2012

Confronting witchcraft in Britain

Summary

16 August 2012

In Britain there are signs that child cruelty linked to spiritual beliefs is a growing phenomenon. There have been a number of cases of ritual torture and killings involving children, mainly in families from the African community. Now the British government has released an action plan to try to confront the problem.

Reporter:

Tom Esslemont

A child reading a book

A belief in witchcraft is common to some traditional religions.

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Report

There have been some shocking cases of violent child abuse in Britain in recent years. To mention just two: Kristy Bamu was murdered in 2010 because his attackers thought he was a witch. He was 15. And then there was the gruesome case of the headless torso belonging to a five or six-year-old boy found in the River Thames a decade ago.

In trying to tackle the problem, the government has brought together faith leaders, charities, the police and social workers. Under its new action plan it urges closer cooperation between these groups. Those critical of the plan, while welcoming it as an important step, say more faith leaders need to acknowledge the problem of ritual killings.

Despite the differences of opinion which exist, the government says it will now help provide support to those who witness such activity. It also says it wants to appoint mentors – people who can listen to members of affected communities. But the government admits that more research is needed for the problem to be properly eradicated.

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Vocabulary

abuse

mistreatment, cruelty

witch

a person who practises magic or sorcery

gruesome

horrible

torso

human body excluding head and limbs

tackle

deal with, confront

faith leaders

religious chiefs

cooperation

teamwork, support

ritual

ceremonial

appoint

employ

eradicated

destroyed

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