The church is being asked to raise the issue of Female Genital Mutilation in its communities, as new statistics show the illegal practice is an increasing problem in the UK.

Data from the Health and Social Care Information Centre identified 578 new cases in March in England. This brings the total figures up to nearly 4,000 in the UK since the data started to be recorded in September. 60 of these cases are in under-18s.

"This data highlights that FGM is a major issue that must be prioritised by the UK Government and it is also important that other influential voices, including faith leaders, speak out against this harmful practice," said Dr Ann Marie Wilson, founder and executive director of FGM pressure group 28 Too Many, which regularly speaks in churches. "FGM predates Islam and Christianity and although it is not part of any religion it is practised by both Christians and Muslims.

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