The National

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (July 25, 2011) - Sorcery-related killings in this country are a gruesome reminder that certain pockets of society have not made significant progress in accepting modern ideas in Papua New Guinea (PNG).

Quaint and outdated beliefs still hold sway over many people in this nation. Every tribe and clan in this diverse land keeps and practices some part of their pre-colonial beliefs and ancestral customs.

The idea that man is but a part of a world that coexists with the supernatural and is bound by these unwritten rules is prevalent in PNG, even after the advent of Christianity.

Apparently, more than 120 years of the teachings of Christ has done little to douse the fires of superstition or the strongly-held beliefs and fears the majority of Papua New Guineans are in one way or another affected by.

Last week’s shocking story of the alleged killing of three women outside Port Moresby was a stark reflection of the depths of depravity that exist even in the hub of the nation.

The three could possibly be victims of an act that has no basis in modern law or moral justification.

They were suspected of having a hand in killing a man which they may or may not have known. The court will find that out.

This man incidentally died in a car accident.

His relatives wrought their brand of justice on the most likely people they suspected of influencing the death.

However, the main issue with such retaliatory actions is that they are never based on any hard evidence or even plausible eye-witness accounts.

Nothing is admissible in a modern context when finding a justification for such a vengeful act.

If one could come up with some kind of mitigating circumstance it would be that the people who commit these evil, brazen and wanton crimes are themselves the victims of their upbringing.

But, in all honesty, no court of law can deliberate on such a crime and acquit the perpetrators in good conscience.

The supposedly most developed and modern urban area in PNG showed an ugly underbelly. This incident, just one of many similar atrocities committed so far in this calendar year around the country, has revealed to all that there is widespread adherence to custom and village-based practices that respect no law – western or moral – but rather the long-held beliefs of generations.

We must question ourselves whether we as a country are firstly, sufficiently modernized and secondly Christianly-principled as we claim to be.

Legislation must be developed to address this type of crime because it is something that is quite different from other offences.

Most educated Papua New Guineans would find it incomprehensible that there are still people, and many of them, that can kill others based on what they believe to be the truth.

How can the government deter such mindsets?

There is no simple answer or magic bullet.

There are, however, actions that can be taken both as a long-term strategy and short course to curb the problem of sorcery killings.

Firstly, the people who carry out this vile act must be met with the full force of the law.

They must be punished and not just for a "murder" but for the motives and ideology behind the crime. The heaviest sentence must be meted out.

People must understand that there is no place for this kind of barbarism, that this mode of operation existed in a time far removed from where we are now.

Making sorcery-related killings a capital crime is perhaps the only solution.

PNG society will not progress if so many are given to the whims and arbitrary nature of traditional and beliefs and practices. Christian tenets must be upheld if that is indeed the kind of nation we proclaim to be.

If one was to make a study of the religiosity of this nation, one can safely deduce that given all the evidence and the general behaviour of people, we are not what we claim to be.

We are in essence fake Christians.

Why not admit this and make a real effort to eradicate the cultural norms and practices that have fettered the people’s minds.

We all know that in our villages there are certain customs, beliefs and practices that give rise to, or have the potential, to foster evil.


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