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  • Isabella Saleu

Education key to changing mindsets

Gordons, Port Moresby: “If we are to change the mindsets of people, it has to be through education and in order to stop all this violence as Papua New Guineans, we have to change the way we think.”

This statement was made by Mrs. Bernadette Ove, a representative of the Lasallian Women of Hope and an educationist, during a Press Conference on Sorcery Accusation Related Violence (SARV) that was held on 11th January 2022 at the Catholic Bishops Conference of Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands.

Panelists were Sir John Cardinal Ribat, Archbishop of Port Moresby, Auxiliary Bishop of Wabag Diocese, Bp. Justin Soongie and Reverend Roger Joseph, General Secretary of the PNG Council of Churches. Present as special guest was former member for parliament, Dame Carol Kidu.

Mrs. Ove highlighted that despite all the efforts and resources been directed to SARV by Churches, NGOs, Government agencies, particularly the Departments of Justice and Attorney General; Community Development and Religion and the Constitutional and Law Reform Commission, the issue still exists targeting women and children as victims.

“In the joint strategic plan, only the Churches and the government of PNG represented by the two departments and commission were mentioned. The Department of Education could have been amongst those departments because regardless of gender, ethnicity, geographical and economic backgrounds, I strongly believe education is a very powerful tool to transform lives,” she stressed.

She added that whilst it would be a challenge to change the mindset of an older person, younger children on the other hand presented the opportunity to teach and guide in schools through the Citizenship Christian Values Education (CCVE) subject. She proposed that learning materials to aid in the teaching of SARV and GBV also be produced and implemented into the topics under CCVE to be taught to students.

Other proposals made by Mrs. Ove included a call to local members of parliament to work together with community leaders, church workers and councilors to be the forefronts of change in their communities.

A suggestion to identify influential individuals or “change champions” to be trained and equipped with all necessary resources to go out and support the drive to combat SARV by been advocates, was also called for.

However, she said if such did not work, the popular sport of the region, rugby league, could be used as a platform to create awareness on Sorcery Accusation Related Violence.

“So much has been said and done for so long. It’s about time now that we stop talking and take action”, Mrs. Ove said.

Dame Carol Kidu who spoke after the panelists, said SARV was an emerging disease in the society as it is not part of the PNG culture and condemned the sick people that carried out the torture and kilings. She supported the call by Mrs. Ove to have the Department of education onboard the fight against SARV by working with our young people.

She said this fight was not easy as resources and funding have always been a setback but commended the Churches for always leading the way in terms of addressing social issues. She made a call to the government to work closely with the Churches as well as Human Rights advocates in eradicating SARV.

The press conference comes after a recent terrifying and gruesome video went viral on social media showing six women accused of sorcery been stripped off their clothes, tied to poles and burned with hot rods.

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