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IICSA Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

Child protection in religious organisations and settings Investigation Report


B.4: Records kept by religious organisations and settings

Records kept by religious denominations

14. Each religious organisation contacted as part of this investigation was asked to provide information about the number of allegations of child sexual abuse made to them over the 10-year period from 2009 to 2019. Some organisations were not able to provide us with figures because they did not collect any.

15. Other organisations were able to provide some data.

15.1. The Religious Society of Friends in Britain (Quakers) does not maintain records at a national level of the total number of allegations across local congregations.[1] There are 70 area meetings in Britain and, across a sample of six area meetings, there were a total of four allegations during this 10-year period.[2]

15.2. The Baptist Union of Great Britain is made up of approximately 1,945 Baptist churches in England and Wales.[3] At the time of the public hearing in May 2020 it did not collect or maintain records of the number of allegations made across its churches (unless allegations were made about accredited ministers that had then been referred up to regional or national teams).[4] It had plans in place to start gathering this information from the end of 2020 onwards.[5]

15.3. In 2018, the Salvation Army had around 20,000 members in England and Wales.[6] It does record the number of allegations made at a national level, and reported that 60 allegations had been made within the Salvation Army in the previous 10 years.[7]

15.4. The Jehovah’s Witnesses have more than 131,700 members in England and Wales.[8] Their records showed that allegations concerning 67 individuals were reported to their Branch Office within the previous 10 years. This included 25 allegations against elders, 32 allegations against ministerial servants and 10 people accused of abuse within an institutional context (such as abuse at a place of worship by a congregant or non-Jehovah’s Witness).[9]

15.5. The Guru Nanak Gurdwara in Smethwick receives approximately 1,000 visitors per day.[10] Its records showed only one allegation in the previous 10 years.[11]

15.6. Liberal Judaism has 40 member synagogues and communities across the UK and Europe, with roughly 10,000 members.[12] It recorded five allegations within the previous 10 years.[13]

15.7. The United Synagogue has 56 member synagogues, with a total membership of 38,599. It recorded 15 allegations within the previous 10 years.[14]

15.8. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Great Britain) has 157,457 members in England and Wales. There were 16 recorded allegations of child sexual abuse within the Church in the previous 10 years.[15]

15.9. The East London Mosque has a congregation of approximately 7,000 at any one time, with a typical weekly footfall of 32,000, and double that during Ramadan. It received no allegations of abuse in the previous 10 years.[16]

15.10. The Green Lane Masjid and Community Centre had an estimated 60,000 attendees in 2019, with approximately 2,000 people at Friday prayers. They had no recorded allegations of abuse.[17]

While the figures provided to the Inquiry by religious organisations and settings may reflect the known prevalence of child sexual abuse within such organisations, it is extremely unlikely that they reflect the full extent.

16. For example, Mr Shital Adatia (the President of the Shree Hindu Temple and Community Centre, the oldest Hindu temple in the Leicester area) told us that 300 or 400 people may attend the temple “if it’s a quiet week”.[18] He confirmed that there were no records of allegations having been made related to the Temple. However, Mr Adatia also accepted that there was, at the time of the hearing, no system in place in the Temple for recording disclosures, concerns or allegations of child sexual abuse, although the Temple had recently engaged consultants to assist them in this respect.[19] He confirmed that “there haven’t necessarily been any systemic records” and, if there had been an allegation, it may not have been written down.[20] This illustrates the danger in assuming that an absence of recorded allegations is evidence of an absence of abuse.

Records kept by umbrella bodies and representative organisations

17. Many religious organisations and settings are members of an umbrella body or a representative organisation, the purpose of which is not to regulate or govern their members but to provide assistance to them and to further their common objectives. The Inquiry contacted a number of umbrella bodies and representative organisations for assistance in understanding the scale of the allegations of child sexual abuse faced by their member organisations. However, this yielded little additional information. The Evangelical Alliance is a body that represents roughly two million evangelical Christians across the UK, including approximately 3,000 member churches.[21] The Muslim Council of Britain has over 500 affiliate members, including mosques, schools, charitable associations and professional networks.[22] The General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches includes 161 independent chapels and 16 affiliated societies.[23] None of these organisations received details of allegations of child sexual abuse concerning their members.

18. The Mosques and Imams National Advisory Board (MINAB), which has 552 member mosques and imams, told the Inquiry that:

“With a strong religious emphasis, sexual abuse is limited if not rare within the Muslim community”.[24]

When pressed, Mr Moin Azmi, Vice Chair of MINAB, explained that this was based on the fact that MINAB had not been involved in any child sexual abuse cases within its members and none had been reported to it as an institution.[25] MINAB does not, however, require its members to report allegations of abuse to it, and it may be that this is not reported but dealt with internally.[26] Nonetheless, Mr Azmi was confident that if child sexual abuse “was a rampant issue within the Muslim community, then it would have certainly been raised” with MINAB by its members.[27]

19. By contrast, evidence to this Inquiry from victims and survivors, and the Crown Prosecution Service, demonstrated that abuse does happen within the Muslim community. Mr Shaukat Warraich, Chief Executive Officer of Faith Associates (which advises faith organisations, in particular mosques and madrasahs, on good governance, including effective child protection), confirmed that Faith Associates is aware of child sexual abuse within mosques and madrasahs. He did not believe that abuse was any less common in mosques and madrasahs, and confirmed that there is still under-reporting of child sexual abuse in the Muslim community:

“With sexual abuse, cases will come out in time, just as it has with other religious institutions, and my expectation is that more cases will come out over time in the Muslim community.”[28]

20. The Muslim Women’s Network UK (MWNUK) told us that even its knowledge of child sexual abuse within the Muslim community “is only the tip of the iceberg and the scale of the problem is hidden due to the silence of victims”.[29] Ms Nazmin Akthar, Co-Chair of the Board of MWNUK, described the danger in assuming that the absence of allegations is evidence that there is no abuse:

“This is a serious hindrance because it makes room for excuses, such as there not being a problem of child sexual abuse in their institution setting or even community and that therefore nothing else needs to be done.”[30]

21. Ms Akthar’s concern would appear to be borne out by the evidence of Mr Azmi. MINAB has a limited budget and finite resources, and Mr Azmi explained that its work was led by its members’ needs. As a result, it focusses its work on the issues that it considers to be important to its members. In recent years, this focus has been on issues such as terrorism and domestic violence. Currently “MINAB’s members and the body feels that sexual abuse is not a massive issue” within the Muslim community.[31] Mr Azmi confirmed that MINAB is in the midst of a period of organisational change and is hoping to become more proactive in terms of taking the lead on the issue of child protection for its members.[32]

22. The Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations (UOHC) has over 100 synagogue members, which provide the places of worship for the majority of the 60,000 to 70,000 Charedi Jews living in England and Wales.[33] Rabbi Jehudah Baumgarten, on behalf of the UOHC, stated that:

“Disclosures of Charedi child sexual abuse are thought to be lower in number than would be expected for the size of population … Per capita, the number of referrals is lower than would be expected. We do not have the research/data to support this but have a high level of confidence that it is correct.

This may be explained in part by the prevailing environment and culture within the Charedi community. There are significant protective factors in the community that are likely to reduce the incidence of child abuse.”[34]

He also said that there have been only four calls to the UOHC Child Protection Committee Advice Line that “raised concerns of a serious nature”.[35] The UOHC provided no details of any allegations of child sexual abuse in the previous 10 years.[36]

23. This contrasts with information received by the Inquiry. For example, Shema Koli, a helpline for survivors of abuse in the Orthodox Jewish community, received some 800 calls from April 2013 to December 2019, with calls increasing “in complexity and severity”.[37] Similarly, Migdal Emunah (a charity established to provide support and assistance to victims and families of those affected by sexual abuse within the Jewish community) provides support for 50 families per year on average.[38] More of those who approach Migdal Emunah are from an Orthodox Jewish tradition.[39] It has been contacted by a “significant number” of people who “have been sexually abused during religious sleep away camps, at boarding schools, on synagogue premises and in rabbis’ homes”.[40] The majority of those had reported their abuse to their rabbi and/or their Beth Din.[41]

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