Branded a Witch
Children line up to be judged by a pastor (BBC3)

There are around 50,000 children being held in churches in the Democratic Republic of Congo accused of witchcraft, a BBC film team has discovered.

Branded a Witch shows Kevani Kanda exploring the secretive world of faith-based child abuse, where children are physically assaulted because a church leader believes they possess "kindoki" or magic powers.

The documentary explores the increase in the number of children abused and murdered by relatives in the name of driving out demons.

Kanda, who was born in the DRC, looks to establish how ancient traditions have resulted in children being singled out for abuse.

Her investigation follows the deaths of Victoria Climbié and Kristy Bamu. Eight-year-old Victoria was tortured and killed in London in 2000 partly because her guardians believed she was possessed.

Kevani Kanda
Kevani Kanda investigates how children are abused under the guise of faith (BBC3)

Her mother's boyfriend Carl Manning called Victoria "Satan" in his diary, writing that no matter how hard he hit her, she did not cry.

In 2010, Kristy, 15, was killed by his sister Magaline Bamu and her partner Eric Bikubi at their flat in Newham, east London. He was tortured before being drowned in the bath in an attempt to exorcise him of the devil.

Visiting churches in the DRC, Kanda found children accused of witchcraft because they were disabled, wet the bed or suffered nightmares. She found that families put toddlers believed to be possessed through painful rituals to rid them of their kindoki.

Deliverance rituals include torture, starvation, isolation and beatings.

Kanda visits a church in Kinshasa and, at first, says there is a "party-like atmosphere".

Branded a Witch
A young girl is accused of "eating her mother" by a church pastor (BBC3)

"But then it all changes. I'm shocked to witness the pastors going down a line of children picking out those they suspect of having kindoki, or witchcraft," she said.

Asking how and why the pastors select the children, she is told: "These two children have bad works inside them. The holy spirit has revealed to him that these kids have been possessed by witchcraft.

"Like this one [pointing to a young girl], she ate her mother. The spirit is like the wind. It's not something you can see."

One child accused of witchcraft tells Kanda: "I had it. I had witchcraft. I came here and they helped me and I was healed. I was wetting the bed but now I don't do it any more."

Branded a Witch is on BBC3 at 9pm tonight (Monday).