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'Bizarre' sect seeks street collections.

A controversial Christian fundamentalist church which exorcised an eight-year-old girl days before she died of hypothermia wants to hold street collections in Birmingham.

The Universal Church of the Kingdom of God, which once offered devotees the opportunity to hear the 'screams of hell' on a cassette tape, promotes the power of prayer to destroy demon-possession and illness.

Founded in Brazil in 1977, UCKG hit the headlines in January after it performed an exorcism on London schoolgirl Anna Climbie, who had suffered months of abuse at the hands of a great-aunt who believed her niece was possessed by the devil.

UCKG, which has 4,500 members in Britain and churches in Lozells and Wolverhampton, has lodged an application with Birmingham City Council's licensing committee for a street collection permit. The committee deferred a similar application last year after voicing concern at the scale of UCKG's finances.

The church's UK operation spent pounds 125,826 last year on subsistence and travel expenses, largely to cover trips abroad by staff and missionaries.

UCKG, which encourages its members to give ten per cent of their earnings to church funds, has been criticised in the past by the Bishop of Birmingham, the Right Rev Mark Santer, who described its conduct as a 'bizarre' form of Christianity.

Coun Alden (Con Edgbaston) said she feared young people would be 'pulled into' UCKG's beliefs.

'It is the vulnerable people I am worried about,' she said. 'I wouldn't want them to come into contact with such a sect.'

Neila Akutu, UCKG secretary in London, hit back at criticism of the church's expenditure. She said: 'The UCKG is a world-wide ministry. The churches all over the world gather for conferences and prayer meetings, many times held in Brazil and other countries.

'The UCKG UK is also the European headquarters of the world-wide organisation which implies responsibility to visit the countries and pray for the people.'
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Jul 17, 2001
Words:315
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