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.
"The Church and faith leaders can help in many ways and should help raise awareness of FGM in their communities. It is important that people know that FGM is illegal and must be stopped. Hearing this from Church leaders is a very powerful message."
She added that churches could tell children and youth workers of the issue, and ensure that safeguarding training includes information about FGM. There is a confidential NSPCC FGM Helpline on 0800 028 3550.
Church leaders have previously asked David Cameron to pressure the countries around the world where the practice is still tolerated.