Religious satellite TV show Miracle Hour 'risking lives'

TV shows made in London that encourage viewers to believe they are cured of life-threatening illnesses by prayer have been condemned by charities.

Charities criticised an episode of the Miracle Hour show, on Faith World TV, during which a diabetic caller was told he was "set free" from the disease.

"It is particularly dangerous and puts his life at risk," said African Health Policy Network head Francis Kaikumba.

UKWET, which produces the show, said it was "reviewing" its "new programmes".

The organisation, whose full name is the UK World Evangelical Trust, said: "We are now reviewing our new programmes to make sure our standards meet good practice."

Miracle Hour is filmed at Faith World TV's studio in south London. It is hosted by Bishop Simon Iheanacho, who is chairman of Minority Ethnic Christian Affairs (Meca), which supports black and minority ethnic Christians and is part of ecumenical body Churches Together in England.

In an episode broadcast on 4 January, on channel 591 on the Sky platform, a diabetic caller named Bode, from Leyton in east London, telephoned the programme.

'Set free'

Bishop Simon told him to lay his hand on his leg and said: "I cause diabetes to die in your body.

"I lose you and declare you set free from the power of diabetes.

Image caption AHPN chief Francis Kaikumba has called for better scrutiny from TV regulators

"Thank you heavenly father for this miracle right now over your life in Jesus's name."

Bode was then asked to repeat the words "it is well with me".

Mr Kaikumba said: "The clip is worrying. Bishop Simon claims to have removed the illness from the caller, insinuating he has been cured."

"The pastor should have recommended the caller sought medical help."

On an episode broadcast on 11 January, viewer Judith, from Ireland, called the show and was told by Bishop Simon to anoint her head with oil.

Bishop Simon told her to repeat: "Wherever this oil will touch, miracle science and wonders will be established."

She then told Bishop Simon her children had "snakes moving about in their own bodies".

Bishop Simon said: "You have to anoint each one of them. Whatever you declare out of your mouth, God will do it."

'Cursed the cancer'

Debbie Ariyo, head of Africans Unite Against Child Abuse (Afruca), said the broadcast "flags up a child safeguarding issue".

"Someone is telling the woman she has the power to heal children she believes are possessed."

Later in the episode, Christy from London called the show to say her sister-in-law had breast cancer.

Bishop Simon prayed for her and said: "We remove out of your body that root of cancer."

He later said: "We cursed the cancer. It's dead," and later still: "Tell them not to worry about anything."

Ms Ariyo said the broadcast "gives someone who has potential cancer false hope".

"That's absolutely shocking, dangerous and misleading for the patient," she added.

After the BBC put the charities' criticisms to UKWET last week, Bishop Simon read a statement at the start of the Miracle Hour programme broadcast on 15 February.

"If God heals you, please make sure you go to your doctor to certify that you have been healed or have been made whole and let your doctor give you a clearance on this very matter," he said.

"Also, when it comes to your children, if your children are sick and we pray for them, that does not remove you from going to your doctor.

"Our prayer is to offer a prayer of faith but the medical people satisfy that people are truly healed."

'Shocking examples'

Mr Kaikumba said: "There needs to be a far reaching investigation into this pastor and TV channel.

"We intend to write a letter to Ofcom raising our concerns."

UKWET manager the Reverend Chris Mmeregini told the BBC the Miracle Hour programme is "designed to bring encouragement to believers in Jesus Christ through the preaching and teaching of the word of God and to offer prayer of faith to help those in need".

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Media captionMiracle Hour received a call from a viewer saying her relative has cancer. Clip broadcast by UKWET on Faith World TV

"The issues you have raised in our Hour of Miracles programme on 4 January and 11 January do not represent the content or intent of the programme as you have implied," he added.

Mr Kaikumba said he has watched "similar channels" to Faith World TV and "been appalled by some of the things I've seen faith leaders do".

"I've seen shocking examples of faith leaders advising people that they have been healed or cured as a mechanism for people to attend services and purchase items," he added.

He called for "better scrutiny from Ofcom".

"There needs to be a government commission and inquiry," he said.

'Strict rules'

A spokesman for Sky, the platform on which Miracle Hour is broadcast, said: "Sky's digital satellite platform is regulated by Ofcom which means we have a legal obligation to offer any channel with a broadcasting licence access to our platform."

An Ofcom spokesman said: "Ofcom has very strict rules in place to protect viewers and listeners from harm and to prevent religious programmes from exploiting audiences.

"We have already issued a number of tough sanctions to channels in this area and are actively monitoring content to ensure that any breaches are appropriately dealt with."

Joe Aldred, executive secretary of Meca said: "Ministers need to be careful when dealing with children and vulnerable adults.

"Ministers should be careful about claiming that exorcisms or healing have actually occurred unless there is corroborative evidence; the minister cannot be both judge and jury."

Pastor Fred Annin, of Action Plus Deliverance Centre, a ministry which congregates in south London, emphasised the important role faith can play "in boosting morale" for "helping people through illness".

"Faith lifts people up when they're down but should never push them down more," he added.

"Prayer can not bring our health back when we ignore medicine."

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