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  • Fr. Giorgio Licini

Sorcery accusation related violence must stop

At the end of December, we were shocked at the images of an incident that had taken place in the Usa village of Sumi, Kagua district of Southern Highlands a few weeks earlier. Five women were accused of causing the death of a young man with absurd sorcery allegations. They were all tortured, five of them killed and two badly injured.

Either real or presumed, the evil of sorcery has a long history. St. Paul in the letter to the Galatians states: “Now the works of the flesh are plain: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, selfishness, dissension, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and the like. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things shall not inherit the Kingdom of God.” (Gal 5:19-21). St. Paul gave stern warnings but never recommended torturing or killing anybody for any of those evils. He also hated false accusations.

The contribution the Church can offer to society is clear. There is nothing in the world of sorcery that can be justified or supported. Claiming real or alleged sorcery powers or summarily accusing others of sorcery practices or threatening real or alleged sorcerers with arbitrary and violent means, all is negative, repugnant, and reprehensible.

Studies, education, and awareness around sorcery certainly help in understanding and addressing the issue and mitigating its consequences. However, the incident captured on video in the Southern Highlands in November has clearly told everybody that time has come for an all-out war against the evil of sorcery accusation related violence, which can only be defeated and eradicated.

It will not happen only by routinely assisting the victims and working against a few self-declared sorcerers and many self-appointed accusers and torturers. The law must harshly deal with both classes of offenders to create a sufficient environment of deterrence. People must face the courts (and only the courts) if they actively claim or uphold sorcery powers and practices; as well as individuals must be properly protected against false, baseless, or absurd accusations such as blood sucking or heart eating.

“Something more has to be done to stop these heinous atrocities. The first and foremost goal is to immediately end the torture of women. A society that kills its mothers cannot stand!”, says Bishop Donald Lippert of Mendi, a diocese at the forefront of the battle against sorcery related accusation violence. The opportunist and handsomely paid ​glasman or mambuman are the persons to be targeted by an improved legislation and by law-enforcers. Their vulnerable victims have nothing to do with real or alleged sorcery practices.

The Catholic Bishops Conference of Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands, in cooperation with the local parishes and dioceses and all others already active on this front, intends to resolutely intensify its fight against sorcery accusation related violence. One more victim of ignorance and torture will just be too much!

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