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August 5, 2000, Saturday
NEWS; Pg. 11

ARE OUR CHILDREN MOVING TO THE DARK SIDE?

TV AND BOOKS BLAMED FOR LURING YOUNGSTERS INTO THE OCCULT

Karen Hambridge
Coventry Evening Telegraph

CULT television shows Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Charmed are being blamed for fuelling a fascination in the occult among children.

The TV programmes and the popular Harry Potter series of books have got kids hooked on witchcraft and sorcery, according to the Pagan Federation.

The group has appointed its first youth officer in response to the growing number of calls from children. About 100 inquiries a month are being directed to the organisation.

Pagan Federation media officer Andy Norfolk says the youth officer explains to youngsters that the principal ethic of witchcraft is to harm no one - and is not just an easy way to get a boyfriend or girlfriend.

The rise in interest in all things supernatural has received a mixed reaction from clergy in Coventry.

The Rev Supriyo Mukherjee, of St Barnabas, Cromwell Street, Foleshill, said it was up to parents to guide their children. As long as youngsters were not delving into evil, then he saw no problem.

Mr Mukherjee said: "Paganism has many forms. If children are getting involved with evil, with Satanism and devil worship, then it is dangerous, but there are some aspects of paganism which are very similar to other religions apart from Christianity."

But Canon Andrew White, International Director of Coventry Cathedral, said the trend was worrying.

"Adults and children must not see the occult as benign. Children who begin exploring can end up being pulled into satanic cults."

He added that the church had to accept some of the blame by not appealing enough to young people.

Mark Landreth-Smith, one of the organisers of the Stoneleigh Bible Week, also believed there was a danger of children getting lured into the occult, with the prevalence of supernatural shows and literature.

"My advice to parents would be to use the programmes and books positively.

"Say it is simply entertainment. But then use it as a way of explaining about the supernatural realm and the occult and how there is also supernatural God who wants to love and cherish."

GRAPHIC: LOTS AT STAKE: Sarah Michelle-Geller as Buffy the Vampire Slayer;; POPULAR: Melissa Joan Hart as Sabrina Teenage Witch; CULT WORSHIP: Harry; Potter (above) and Channel 5's Charmed (left) are said to be a harmful influence on children

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