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By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

2/15/2013 (1 year ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Belief in sorcery, witchcraft still prevalent in former colony

Police narrowly saved two elderly women from being burned alive after their village had accused them of sorcery. The village in Papua New Guinea had just tortured a 20-year-old woman before dousing her in kerosene and setting her on fire.

A 'glassman,' a local holy man claiming supernatural powers, had claimed the women were responsible for the child's death and accused them of sorcery.

A "glassman," a local holy man claiming supernatural powers, had claimed the women were responsible for the child's death and accused them of sorcery.

Highlights

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

2/15/2013 (1 year ago)

Published in Asia Pacific

Keywords: Papua New Guinea, sorcery, mob justice, highlands


LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - An angry lynch mob had strapped the two women to poles and were ready to burn them over the alleged murder of an eight-year-old girl before authorities arrived.

The murdered eight-year-old was believed to be "gang raped and killed by two known suspects," police commander Teddy Tei said. Tei added that the suspects were among the mob accusing the women of being witches.

A "glassman," a local holy man claiming supernatural powers, had claimed the women were responsible for the child's death and accused them of sorcery.

Police in Mount Hagen in the Papua New Guinean highlands safely removed the two women from the crowd. About 20 people were arrested in connection with the incident.

The event took place a week after a mother-of-two Kepari Leniata was tossed on to a pyre of tires and burned alive, after being accused of killing a neighbor's six-year-old son with sorcery. Stripped, beaten and burned to death Leniata "confessed" after she was dragged from her hut, stripped naked and tortured with hot iron rods.

Papua New Guinean police have launched a murder investigation into the incident and are reportedly preparing charges against those responsible.

The country's Prime Minister Peter O'Neill who addressed the matter in a statement over Leniata's murder last week. "No one commits such a despicable act in the society that all of us, including Kepari, belong to," he said.

"Barbaric killings connected with alleged sorcery. Violence against women because of this belief that sorcery kills. These are becoming all too common in certain parts of the country.

"It is reprehensible that women, the old and the weak in our society should be targeted for alleged sorcery or wrongs that they actually have nothing to do with."

In the highlands of Papua New Guinea, many believe that witchcraft exists, and sorcery is used to kill enemies.

In 1971, whilst still a colony, the country introduced a Sorcery Act to criminalize the practice. The law has recently seen a rise in attacks on innocent people accused of black magic and convictions by "kangaroo courts" made up of local village elders.

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