We appreciate all the support our Faith Communities are providing for the vulnerable during this current crisis. For many people, their faith and religion will be a source of comfort and will help them through these harrowing times. Now more than ever, the role volunteers will play in supporting those in need is absolutely essential and we also recognise the pivotal role faith leaders and faith groups are playing in galvanising this support.
We know that abuse linked to faith and belief affects people from all walks of life, and impacts on communities across London and the UK. Beliefs in the spiritual realm and in good and evil forces are extremely common globally and we recognise that there is a fundamental right to hold religious and spiritual beliefs. We also recognise that most holding these beliefs would not hurt or abuse children in their care. However, abuse that takes place against those who are branded or labelled as a ‘witch’, or as having being ‘possessed by an evil spirit’ can result in great harm. When the world has been turned upside down, many will look for spiritual reasons for what is happening and may seek spiritual solutions to the problems. This will sometimes involve blaming another (often children but potentially partners).
As such the current crisis may result in a:
Belief that faith should protect individuals from catching the COVID-19 virus and the consequent negative beliefs and practices that may follow should the virus be contracted.
A few faith leaders or members of religious communities making claims that they can cure COVID- 19.
Some faith and Church Leaders ignoring guidance to gather their congregations, therefore placing them and others at risk.
Rise in accusations against vulnerable individuals who will be labelled as witches and having caused this misfortune
Increase in abuse linked to faith or belief (including deliverance / exorcisms of children)
The Metropolitan Police Service is committed to working with the National Working Group on Child Abuse Linked to Faith and Belief and partners such as the National FGM Centre, NSPCC and Thirtyone: eight to tackle child abuse linked to faith and belief and a range of other Harmful Practices.
We would urge those from a faith background to be vigilant of those who may seek to harm others and report these concerns. If you are aware of harmful practises (which also include FGM, Forced Marriage and Honour Based Abuse) we would ask that you come forward and speak to the police about incidents so that we can safeguard our vulnerable.
For more information on child abuse linked to faith and belief visit: http://nationalfgmcentre.org.uk/calfb/
Alternatively if you have concerns about child abuse linked to faith and belief call the dedicated NSPCC helpline on 0800 028 3550
We understand that not everyone wishes to speak to Police direct and information can also be reported anonymously to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 or online.
We thank you for your continued support and wish you well. Please do not hesitate to contact me should you have any further questions.