Faiths Against Child Sexual Exploitation Luton (FACES Luton) is deeply saddened to hear the story coming from Huddersfield involving the arrest of 31 people for offences including the rape and trafficking of five young victims.
FACES Luton is a coalition of Muslims and Christians in the town that came together in 2016 to provide strong message from our respective faiths condemning all sexual exploitation of children (CSE). We are very aware of the way cases like that in Huddersfield, often referred to as “street grooming” have involved many men of Muslim background, but we condemn the way these stories have been relentlessly hijacked to attack Islam. Just a few weeks ago we were equally appalled as the media carried the horrific accounts given to the Independent Inquiry on Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) of the grooming and abuse perpetrated by a Church of England Bishop against young men. Our message is clear: both our faiths, indeed all faiths, totally condemn such sexual abuse. CSE is a blight on society, it occurs in all communities, and in defiance of the way some seek divide the nation around it, as Christian and Muslim leaders we are committed to work together for its prevention.
Our two conferences have heard from victims and their parents, lawyers involved in representing victims, social workers and police, as well as leaders from Luton’s Muslim and Christian community.
Over the past year over 100 Muslims and Christians from Luton have gone through our training course, “Breaking the Silence” where they have worked together to understand what CSE really is, how it takes place and how it can be prevented. There are lots of myths and misconceptions that cloud our perception of this kind of abuse, so it’s really important that clear messages are available that cut through some of the confusion. The course has been developed by experts on the basis of research on CSE, and is delivered together by Christian and Muslim members of the FACES team. During July we delivered the course to some 150 Muslim leaders in London, Birmingham and Manchester. Across all three locations we encountered men and women who were clear in their determination to challenge CSE wherever they saw it.
It is our hope that the police and agencies in Huddersfield will be able to pursue this case to achieve full justice for the victims and sentencing of perpetrators, and our prayers are for all victims and their families. We also hope and pray our fellow mosques and churches will be able to play their part in the healing of both individuals and the wider communities affected.