Time to declare war on sanguma

Editorial

MT HAGEN police on Saturday saved a woman from being tortured and burned alive on accusations of sanguma (sorcery) at Ban.
Last Wednesday night, Enga police saved three women from being burnt alive, also on allegations of sanguma.
This is a frightening situation for women in Papua New Guinea and it is becoming too common in a country where we like to call ourselves Christian.
Most cases go unreported.
The sanguma story is believable because there is no loud and clear authoritative voice saying otherwise.
The churches are silent.
The government is silent.
The police stand around and say, “OK, just torture her a little bit but don’t kill her”.
If no one in a position of authority and influence is standing up to call this “evil”, who will?
We must take a stand.
It takes a person with courage to speak the truth and blast through the deceit and lies.
There is no positive future for this country if we continue to believe in this sanguma story and accuse, torture and murder our innocent men and women.
Stop repeating this fake story.
Stop acting on it.
Stop believing it.
We should challenge our church and government leaders to speak up.
We should be publishing it so the whole country knows what each church is saying, what each minister and MP is saying.
What is needed is education.
There should be public health education.
Mandatory post-mortems should be carried out on any person said to have died because of sanguma to determine the real cause of death.
There should be legal repercussions for any health worker at any level who blames sik bilong ples, and likewise for anyone who attempts to use pasin bilong ples to determine a cause of death.
There is no place in our modern society for those who interpret dreams, consult a glasman, wave around a bamboo pole, ask the dead body all kinds of questions in the hope that it will raise a finger to give the answer.
The law about compensation should be changed so that death is not a business where people try to extort pik mani from each other and then fight about it.
It’s a form of child abuse to tell a child that the sanguma story is true.
It should be illegal to do that.
We need to raise the bar in terms of what we expect of our young people in PNG, in terms of honesty, courage, taking a stand, doing research, etc, and celebrating those who attain those standards as heroes of the nation.
The ‘men and women of honour’ awards are a great start and we need more of them.
We could create viral forms of communication targeted at children, giving good messages and work to disrupt the sanguma story.
There must be actual negative consequences for these crimes against the State.
Yes, crimes against the State.
Not only are they destroying the life of an innocent citizen – a mother, a daughter – but they are causing irreparable harm to the reputation of the nation, as well as solidifying the sanguma story as true for another generation of young children to believe.
Every time this happens, Papua New Guinea takes a step backwards.
It should be mandatory for communities to report to police any such incident and the people involved should be questioned and a list of suspects compiled.
No one should know who had cooperated or failed to cooperate with the investigation, thus no whistle-blowers could be targeted by the community.
That’s just one idea. We have to have more and more ideas to find something that works.
This cannot just go on like this. We must rise up, get organised and be counted.
It should be a nationwide campaign, well-funded and led.
People who want to torture others must realise that they are a minority and we, the majority, stand against them.
They need to know that they are shaming their own nation when they behave this way.
It should be illegal to tell anyone that sanguma is real in any sense that can be used to accuse another human being of being a sanguma.
That is not what the Bible teaches us, and it should not be who we are.
So-called pastors (actually they are glasman) who are making money from poor, naive Christians by telling them that sanguma is real should be investigated.
But even more than that, the real pastors and people of faith should be getting off their
backside and proclaiming and living the power and love of God, taking a stand against violence, helping those who are hurting, seeking restoration through truth-telling.
There is so much more we can do to get rid of this evil.

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