By MALUM NALU
THE primitive and barbaric killings of innocent people on allegations of sanguma (sorcery) are increasing because Papua New Guineans believe it in this day and age, according to American Lutheran missionary Anton Lutz.
Lutz, who has been involved in the fight against sanguma in Enga for several years, was speaking yesterday on the increasing instances of killings in both rural and urban areas. A woman was saved by police from being burned alive in Lae two weeks ago on allegations of sanguma and another woman was also saved from the same fate by police in Port Moresby last week.
Lutz said sanguma-related incidents appeared to be “getting worse” in PNG.
“It does appear to be getting worse in more places, affecting more people, more intense torture, more lives torn apart and so on,” he said.
“The single biggest cause of this, I believe, is the sanguma story which many or even most Papua New Guineans now believe.
“It has the form of an urban legend, a morphing myth, a nationwide tok-win (gossip).
“We’ve all heard it.”
Lutz said these stories included sanguma being real.
“If a woman was acting strangely she was a sanguma, when a young or important person died, it was because of sanguma, people who were sanguma operated in a network,” he said.
“This sanguma story is growing and spreading by word of mouth.
“It’s what people talk about on the PMV buses.
“It’s what they talk about in the settlements of Port Moresby.
“It’s what they talk about in the markets of Enga.
“Every time they repeat it as if it is true, as opposed to repeating it as if it is a joke. It is being re-inforced in vulnerable minds around them.”
The tragedy is that grown men and women in PNG believe in sanguma, Lutz said.
“What’s strange is that there are lots of other stories in the world like vampires or mermaids or Santa Claus,” he said.
“While they might be popular stories, no-one apart from children actually thinks they are true stories.
“Yet here in PNG, grown men and women actually seem to think the sanguma story is true.
By MALUM NALU