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First international day against witchcraft & sorcery

-       Moses Ben, Diocese of Mendi


Mendi, Southern Highlands: The Catholic community in the Diocese of Mendi with members from other Churches joined in the First International Day against Witchcraft and Sorcery Accusation advocacy awareness on 10th August 2020 at Momei Oval.


The peaceful march and awareness had over 3000 participants that involved students and staff from Kumin Primary School, local community health workers, youth groups, women groups and public servants. They marched and chanted with placards, “Do not to kill innocent mothers, fathers and young women. Respect the dignity of persone, especially our mothers and sisters.”


Among the invited guests present were Vicar General of the Diocese of Mendi, Fr Pius Hal; Bishop of United Church, Rev. Stanley Buka; Sargent Jimmy Suaip, Family and Sexual Violence; Ms. Jenny Karenge, Public Solicitor; Pastoral Vicar Fr Robert Gigmai; UN Women represent Mr. Steven Gari; and Mr. Leo Supiri, Advisor for Village Court Law and Order.


Recently three women in Tulum village of Karinz Local Level Government (LLG) in Mendi-Munihu District were accused of Sorcery. The women were strung-up, tortured by fire and were forced to take responsibility for the death of a young man.


Fr Pius said that though there were only few cases reported, the grim reality was that many women still faced torture in the province, where some were even forced to leave their families and villages. "In many areas of Southern Highlands, many think that there is no natural death and that every death must have a clear cause. Unfortunately, when this happens the poor and defenceless are blamed for the death of a person,” he said.


He discouraged the practice of consulting witch doctors during times of pain and loss, especially during the death of a person, and urged for communities to seek an autopsy report of the deceased from medically qualified and trained doctors. "When bush doctors are hired, they do not need proof to blame innocent and vulnerable people, and this is an act of Satanism. Doctors are trained and qualified for such matters and can provide medical proof to confirm the cause of death,” he stated.


Sgt Suaip said that the day commemorated victims and created awareness of SAV. "Many women were hanged, tortured and killed in the remote villages of the province but relatives do not report to us in fear of retaliation, he said. More should be done to encourage women suspected of sorcery and their families, to come forward and report the abuse. 


Ms Karenge said there was a big need to have a safe house in the province to accommodate frightened mothers that ran away from such threats and intimidation. “It is not only the role of the Law and Justice sector only in helping them. It is everyone’s moral duty to protect their mothers and sister and to fight against Sorcery related issues,” she said.


The Awareness concluded with a drama and dance performance from members of the Strongim Bilip Team of the Catholic Diocese of Mendi.


A ZOOM Panel on the issue will be held on Tuesday 18th August, 2020. A panel will discuss awareness and a way forward. All those interested in participating in the online discussion are requested to  contact: Fr Ambrose Pereira sdb

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