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  • Nigel Akuani

Bold Unified Action Vital against Sorcery Violence

Port Moresby: Bold unified action by all individuals and organisations is the way forward to seriously combatting the issue of Sorcery Accusation Related Violence (SARV).

The strong emphasis was made by Rev. Roger Joseph, General Secretary of the PNG Council of Churches (PNGCC) on Tuesday 11th January 2022, during a Press Conference at the Catholic Bishops Conference of Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands (CBCPNGSI), Waigani.

Forming part of the conference’s distinguished panel of speakers were Sir John Cardinal Ribat MSC, Archbishop of Port Moresby; Mrs. Bernadette Ove, Spokesperson for the Lasallian Women’s Hope; and Auxiliary Bishop of Wabag, Justin Ain Soongie. Moderating the session was Paul Harricknen, President of Catholic Professional Society PNG.

In the statement presented by Rev. Roger, it highlighted the growing number of SARV cases in rural areas and implied that there was certainly an ill-advised generation who undermined the rule and function of Law in resolving matters. “The rise in cases informs us that there is an emerging culture of misguided people taking the law into their own hands by inflicting physical abuse and barbaric acts of violence against innocent women and young children causing the death of many innocent lives,” it stated.

The statement condemned the actions of those self-appointed vigilante groups that often preyed on the most vulnerable members of society, especially women and children. “As Church leaders we call upon the government of the day and concerned leaders to ensure that there are strong and effective Social and Justice policies that will empower our village Court Systems to effectively respond to anyone found indulging in such acts of violence to be arrested and punished,” it further read.

In his reflection of the dignity of the human person, Cardinal Ribat, described how life was a precious gift from God and should be lived out in fullness and in peace. “God in his own way gave his life for us so that we too may not perish but enjoy life ever after. God showed us the value of our lives and it is our responsibility of protecting and promoting the much goodness life has to offer,” he explained.

In his recollection of SARV in the Highlands Region, Bp Justin said there were numerous variables that had a detrimental impact on the effectiveness of addressing SARV. “The sad reality is that there is a very slow response in saving victims when they are being accused and tortured, mostly due to geographical factors, logistics, and mostly because of poor coordination and preparedness on the part of authorities,” he stated.

Mrs Ove, in her 42-years of teaching experience as an Educator, emphasized the importance of education in developing the mindsets of individuals and called on the Department of Education to start taking a proactive role in the matter of SARV. “We need to change the mindset of the younger generation to ensure they are well informed on these issues and the chain of violence is broken. The Department of Education is key to alleviating SARV and many other social issues, and should be at the forefront in orchestrating Awareness and Education programs for the rural communities,” she said.

All statements presented by speakers in the conference sought to understand and resolve three key points: SARV being a serious violation of Human Rights and Personal Dignity; Ways forward for an inclusive approach to eradicating SARV; and On the ground perspective of the fight against SARV in Enga province.

Present to show their support for the drive against SARV were vibrant personnel from the media, staff of CBCPNGSI, representatives from Magna Carta PNG, and The Voice Inc. The conference was also honoured by the presence of former politician and Women Rights Advocate, Dame Carol Kidu.

Thanks to the online social platform ‘Zoom’, audiences from around the nation and in other countries were also able to sit in and observe the statements presented. Among them were Bishop of Mendi, Donald Lippert; Bishop of Alotau, Rolando Santos; Fr Phil Gibbs, President of Divine Word University; Fr John Glynn, and Founder of WeCare Foundation.

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