10 AUGUST: First Day Against Sorcery Accusation Violence
The Catholic diocese of Mendi has declared war on sorcery related violence, though through peaceful means. At the same time, the development outreach agency of the German Catholic Church, Missio Aachen, has launched the First International Day Against Sorcery Accusation Violence. Contacts are ongoing with the highest offices of the United Nations to make it a permanent recurrence on the 10thof August. It was on that day of the year 2012 that Sr. Lorena Jenal, a Swiss missionary who has spent decades in Papua New Guinea, rushed to the rescue of Christina, a defenseless mother being tortured for alleged sorcery acts in a remote village of the Southern Highlands province. Christina represents thousands who still succumb or narrowly escape this type of violence in 30 countries nowadays.
St. Augustin believed that the power of spells and other occult practices was not real. On a different, but at times related field, the Catholic Church today clearly states that demonic possession does exist but is extremely rare. Professional exorcists are the first to admit that the largest part of cases submitted to them are of clinical nature and related to psychological and psychiatric disorders.
Evil instead clearly exists. Its manifestations are easily seen in a whole range of human misconduct and inclination to violence. St. Augustin would not believe that so-called sorcerers would remove organs from their victims without touching them; or make them sick and cause them to die. However, he knew that people hating, despising and even killing each other was common occurrence. Something that indeed calls for punishment, though supported by evidence, due process, and proportionality.Some people may practice sorceryor witchcraft, however the power of these practices over the health, wealth, life or death of others is rejected by science.Death is caused by some illness in the bodyunless it is plain murder. Even for murder, however, the modern rule of law excludes kidnapping, torture, burning at stake and any other inhuman practices. Many countries even oppose death penalty for murder. Sorcery accusation violence is primitive and unjustifiable. It is more inhuman that the alleged act of sorcery itself.
It takes a whole range of actions to defeat the world of sorcery. The evil of selfishness, envy, jealousy, arrogance, that leads to fighting, injuring, poisoning, and murder reveals a spiritual sickness, which is the same in the alleged sorcerers or on those who stand to punish them in a sadist manner. With all this still widespread, the journey remains long and hard for a country like Papua New Guinea which loves to describe itself as Christian. Christ’s message is one of forgiveness, reconciliation, self-sacrifice, love of the enemy, respect for human dignity and life. Very far from the world of sorcery!
Science and enlightenment will also support the Christian revolution of the heart and a new way of thinking. We should never be tired of searching for the real causes of things and the reasons they happen. Sorcery accusation violence is as unjust as it is unfair. Either it is a primitive and rudimental form of retribution; or a proof of laziness and intellectual dishonesty on the part of the perpetrators; or a pure act of revenge on the victims and stealing of their possessions. It may also be that sadistic pleasure deriving from inflicting pain, suffering, or humiliation on others. But that is already unfair when done to awallaby or a wild pig at the height of a hunting session.
Fr. Giorgio Licini, PIME
Catholic Bishops Conference