LONDON – Britain’s leading black church leaders have released a joint statement rebuking a BBC documentary, saying that the program portrayed inaccurate stereotypical attitudes towards children among black Christians.
A BBC2 documentary, entitled "Witch Child," was screened on Apr. 4 and followed Dr Richard Hoskins, a specialist in African religions.
During the program the practice of exorcism was filmed in the Congo in graphic detail, and it was alleged that young children in Britain are abused and even killed by their parents or relatives with the belief that they have been possessed by evil spirits.
Bishop Dr Joe Aldred, the chair of the Council of Black-led Churches in Birmingham and the secretary of Minority Ethnic Christian Affairs (MECA), which is part of Churches Together in England, said, "We are aware that some cases of child abuse have come to light in the UK, which the police are investigating with our full cooperation. But to imply, as this broadcast seemed to do, that abuse of children is widespread amongst black Christians in the UK is misleading and very unhelpful.
"The failure of the documentary to make the distinction between legitimate and acceptable practices of faith within the Church as opposed to occult and harmful cultural practices means the Church was again misrepresented," he added.
The chief executive officer of the African and Caribbean Evangelical Alliance, the Rev Katei Kirby, also said, "As leaders of Churches and agencies we operate on the understanding that children are God’s heritage to us. Richard Hoskins rightly concludes his program with a challenge to the Church to address unacceptable practices such as the cases his program uncovered.
"That challenge," he added, "must be to all churches in all communities, and indeed all faith-based organizations impacting on the lifestyle and development of children."
"Evangelical organizations we represent and other organizations are continuing to show their commitment to the welfare and safety of children by accessing relevant training and support, and by working closely with local government agencies and the police, both as good practice and to address issues that come to light in their communities," Kirby concluded.
An extensive alliance of organizations has now come forward to affirm that they do not condone harm to children, and in particular do not believe that the contents of the program are typical of Churches in Britain and Ireland.
The organizations commented in a joint statement: "We call upon anyone who harms children for any reason to desist from doing so, and we strongly advise that anyone who is aware of any child being harmed to report it to the police, social services or children’s agencies such as the NSPCC and CCPAS."
The organizations represented in the joint-statement include:
African and Caribbean Evangelical Alliance, Alliance of Asian Christians, Apostolic Congress of Great Britain, Association of Black Clergy, Baptist Racial Justice, Calvary Church of God in Christ, Catholic Association for Racial Justice, Cherubim and Seraphim Church, Church of God of Prophecy, Churches Commission for Racial Justice, Congolese Pastorship, Coptic Orthodox Church, Committee for Minority Ethnic Anglican Concerns, Council of African and Afro-Caribbean Churches, Evangelical Alliance, Freedoms Ark/Peace Alliance, Glory House, International Ministerial Council of Great Britain, Joint Council for Anglo-Caribbean Churches, Methodist Church Committee for Racial Justice, Minority Ethnic Christian Affairs, New Testament Assembly, New Testament Church of God, New Wine, Redeemed Christian Church of God, Ruach Ministries, Seventh Day Adventist Church, Street Pastors, Transatlantic and Pacific Alliance of Churches, United Reformed Church Racial Justice and Multicultural Ministry, Wesleyan Holiness Church.