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Children are being branded witches by preachers in the UK who supposedly exorcize youngsters by beating, starving or even murdering them in the church.
Activists say children are increasingly facing horrific tortures that may even lead to their death -- as in the case of Victoria Climbié -- across the country only for accusations of being haunted.
According to Debbie Ariyo, founder of Africans Unite against Child Abuse (Afruca) the social disaster is "growing".
"We are seeing more of it. At the very least, we are talking about dozens of cases every year" Ariyo said.
Police have acknowledged that the scale of the crimes is much wider than it appears to be as people cover up their woes for fear of being stigmatized.
Jason Morgan, a detective with the Metropolitan Police's Project Violet which is a special child protection unit said "it is a hidden crime that is very difficult to measure. There may well be a large number of cases that never come to light [...] it is a national problem".
Police covert investigation of a number of churches has demonstrated certain priests carry out acts of "deliverance" for their clients from among their church audience and pocket large sums of money.
One of the victims has reported being sexually abused 21 times at the age of 18 as a guarantee that her family is freed from a curse that caused them problems with another woman saying her husband committed suicide after a London church pastor told him his wife and son were witches.
Bishop Joe Aldred, secretry of minority ethnic Christian affairs at Churches Together in England has criticized the current trend of giving license to people to establish their churches saying "at the moment you can set up a church anywhere, anytime".
He said "in the same way we wouldn't tolerate somebody setting themselves up as a lawyer or surgeon without proper training and regulation, we shouldn't expose the souls of people to anybody who happens to think they can set up a church".
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