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  • Jessica Oata

“More collaborative effort needed to alleviate SARV in the society” – Bishop Soongie

Port Moresby: “As communicators, it is our challenge to follow in the footsteps of St Francis de Sales when reporting on issues affecting our society such as Sorcery Accusation Related Violence (SARV) and Gender Based Violence (GBV) by speaking the truth with LOVE”.

This was the powerful statement made by Bp Justin Ain Soongie when addressing media personnel and journalists during the feast of St. Francis de Sales celebrations hosted by the Social Communications Commission of the Catholic Bishops Conference on January 24, 2023.

Speaking on the topic of SARV in PNG focusing on cases in Enga, Bishop Soongie strongly believes that educating the society on sensitive issues such as SARV and GBV should be a priority, therefore, a collaborative effort from the government, churches, Non-Government Organizations, foreign donors and other stakeholders is needed.

“Whenever we have a SARV case, we have grand media statements issued by relevant authorities that make headlines in the mainstream media giving assurance to the public and victims and their relatives that the perpetrators will be arrested and charged but to date, nothing practical is being done”, he said.

Bishop Soongie added that there is so much talk of big budgets from the government, and foreign donor agencies to address SARV in PNG, yet innocent women and girls continue to suffer gruesomely in the society and nothing concrete is being done to alleviate the situation.

“I don’t blame one party for this, we are all responsible. Community leaders are not

cooperating with law enforcement agencies to identify and present suspects to the police, law enforcement agencies sometimes make the commitment to follow up on SARV cases that are reported but they don’t, media agencies make big headlines once, but many a time is late to follow up and properly report on them and churches need to make more awareness on this issue to their members”.

He challenged media agencies to follow up on cases that they have reported, how the victims are doing, whether or not the perpetrators have been arrested, and if the Police and Government have lived up to their commitment.

“We are all failing to take our responsibility seriously, we are failing to make people be accountable for the wrong they do and we are also failing to live up to our commitment and plans to address issues that affect the fiber of our community”

Bishop Soongie also highlighted the 5-year strategic plan that the Diocese of Wabag has in place to help alleviate SARV in the province which involves an intense 3-4 days of SARV advocacy training involving village leaders, counselors, magistrates, and the public.

“Since December last year, we have held 3 trainings facilitated by a team that comprises of doctors and police officers in collaboration with Caritas PNG resulting in 752 people enlightened and empowered to go into the communities to make awareness to eradicate SARV in the province”.

Bishop Soongie thanked Caritas PNG for their work through their diocesan coordinators in educating and empowering people and called on other stakeholders to do their part in addressing the issue at hand.

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