BOSTON (AP) – Haitian Vodou adherents are defending their faith following two separate Boston-area crimes that authorities say are linked to Voodoo practices.

Two sisters in East Bridgewater were arrested last month after authorities say they burned and permanently disfigured a 5-year-old girl in a “voodoo ritual.”

A week later, Brockton police said a mother stabbed her two sons to death in what she described as a ritual involving “voodoo stuff.”

Voodoo refers to religious practices developed by Caribbean slaves who took spiritual traditions from their native Africa and merged them with elements of Christianity and other faiths.

Practitioners of Haitian Vodou, which adherents spell differently to distinguish it from other variants, say the religion doesn’t sanction violence and fear the crimes will spark a backlash against their community.

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