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01 March 2012

Alliance responds to ‘senseless’ murder of Kristy Bamu

Alliance responds to ‘senseless’ murder of Kristy Bamu

The Evangelical Alliance has re-iterated the importance of protecting all children, after a man and woman were found guilty of killing a teenager they thought was a witch.

Today (1 March), a jury found Eric Bikubu, 28, and Magalie Bamu, 29, guilty of killing Bamu’s brother Kristy, 15, on Christmas Day in 2010.

The pair had subjected the teenager to three days of attacks with knives, metal bars, a hammer and sticks in an exorcism procedure because they believed him to be a witch.

He drowned in a bath on Christmas Day. At the end of the trial, heard at the Old Bailey, Judge David Paget said it had been such a “harrowing” case that each member of the jury was exempted from jury service for the rest of their lives. “It is a case we will all remember,” he said.

Bamu and Bikubi were remanded in custody and are due to be sentenced on Monday.

While neither of them are connected to a church, exorcism has been associated with some Christian groups. Scotland Yard is reported to have carried out 83 investigations into faith-based child abuse over the past 10 years.

In recent years, the Evangelical Alliance has been working with the Churches Child Protection Advisory Service (CCPAS) to ensure churches meet safeguarding standards.

CCPAS has today called on every Local Safeguarding Children’s Board (LSCB) to play a more effective role in protecting children within faith communities. It urges the LSCBs to also contact every faith organisation in their area as soon as possible.

Simon Bass, CEO of CCPAS, commented: “This is a horrific - but very rare - case and it is as incomprehensible and as unfathomable as all child murders are. Although no churches were involved in the horrific death of Kristy, traditional beliefs in witchcraft and spirit possession undoubtedly lay behind the appalling abuse and torture he suffered.

“We must however be careful not to heed the siren calls for government regulation of churches that will doubtless be heard over the next few days. Such regulation would be ineffective, expensive and would compromise the fundamental freedom of religious belief we currently enjoy in the UK and – most importantly - would not make our children any safer.”

Responding to the case, Steve Clifford, general director of the Evangelical Alliance, said: “The tragic death of Kristy Bamu was a horrific crime which highlights the need to ensure the protection of all children, from all backgrounds.

“While no churches or Christian groups were involved in this senseless killing, we recognise that beliefs in witchcraft and spiritual possession have been associated with the Church around the world.

“We condemn the exploitative practices that have been carried out by a small minority of unaffiliated groups, but remain confident in the commitment of our member churches throughout the UK to adhere to safeguarding standards.

“We take child protection very seriously and continue to work closely with The Churches’ Child Protection Advisory Service (CCPAS) in training pastors and children’s workers and today support their call for every Local Safeguarding Children’s Board (LSCB) to work more closely with faith communities to protect children.

“We pray for all those who have been affected by this tragedy.”

Joe Aldred, secretary of Minority Ethnic Christian Affairs at Churches Together in England, added: “The protection and nurture of every child is an essential responsibility of the Church and society at large. There can therefore be no justification for harming a child based on religious grounds. Any such act is a perversion of true faith and perpetrators of illegal acts against children should be held to account irrespective of how such acts may be justified.

 “Ministers must be careful not to inadvertently sanction abuse by engaging in exorcism or praying for allegedly 'demon-possessed' children without proper investigation into the circumstances of the person being prayed for. This is even more so when dealing with a minor or vulnerable person. Every church should ensure it has a current child protection policy that is regularly monitored.”