It is hard to understand that in the 21st century there are still people who believe in witches and their evil doings. ABC News reported yesterday that, “A mob stripped, tortured and bound a woman accused of witchcraft, then burned her alive in front of hundreds of horrified witnesses in a Papua New Guinea town, police said. It was the latest sorcery-related killing in this South Pacific island nation.”
ABC News goes on to say, “In rural Papua New Guinea, witchcraft is often blamed for unexplained misfortunes. Sorcery has traditionally been countered by sorcery, but responses to allegations of witchcraft have become increasingly violent in recent years. Kepari Leniata, a 20-year-old mother, had been accused of sorcery by relatives of a 6-year-old boy who died in a hospital on Tuesday. She was tortured with a hot iron rod, bound, doused in gasoline, and then set alight on a pile of car tires and trash in the Western Highlands provincial capital of Mount Hagen, national police spokesman Dominic Kakas said.”
The heinous act occurred in broad daylight and the police failed to make a single arrest. At least 50 people were believed to have participated in this heinous crime.
The International reports that, “In a manner reminiscent of the witch hunts in early modern Europe, Papua New Guinea has experienced an increase in “witch” persecutions, and the same phenomenon has been observed in Africa, particularly in Nigeria.”
Furthermore, the International maintains that they, “are singled out usually by men that wield spiritual power in the community: Christian pastors in Nigeria, or elder tribal councilmen in Papua. The sentence is banishment, torture or death. In Nigeria, it is usually parents or community ‘vigilantes’ that enact the penalties, while in Papua there are organized groups of ‘witch hunters’ whose only purpose is to mete out the punishment.”
These tribal beliefs are rooted in culture. A Papuan witch hunter maintains, “It is part of my culture, my tradition, it’s my belief. I see myself as a guardian angel. We feel that we kill on good grounds and we’re working for the good of the people in the village.”
The number of witch persecutions is on the rise in New Guinea. A lot of pressure is put on the police who have trouble containing them.
“Murder is punishable by death in Papua New Guinea, a poor tribal nation of 7 million people who are mostly subsistence farmers. But no one has been hanged since independence.” Australia granted New Guinea independence on Sept 16, 1975. With the rise of witch executions it no doubt time to revamp the legal system and protect innocent women from such an agonizing death.