By FRANK SENGE KOLMA
IN a country totally under the authority of Christianity, why is sorcery rearing its head very aggressively in Papua New Guinea?
On a superficial level Christianity and sorcery seem diametrically opposed, that one is the antithesis of the other.
The rise of one ought to subjugate the other or so you would think.
In point of fact, this line of reasoning is flawed.
It is flawed because the very existence of Christianity unwittingly lends credibility and sustenance to sorcery also.
As the Stoics, followers of a branch of philosophy developed by a man called Zeno held in around 300 BC, “there could be no injustice unless there was justice, no cowardice unless there was courage, no lie unless there was truth, no shadow unless there was light, so the existence of good necessitates that of evil.”
In the exact same way, Sorcery, known by very many other names, is projected into our midst by Christianity because they represent the exact opposite of each other.
Christianity preaches sorcery into existence as the outward influence or manifestation of the devil.
Christianity and all its devout followers and Sorcery and its equally devout practitioners are earthly manifestations, so we believe, of the never ending struggle between good and evil, between the armies of Heaven and the hordes out of Hell, between God and Satan.
Both parties derive their legitimacy from the same realm of the spiritual unknown.
Like knowledge of God unwittingly produces knowledge of the existence of Satan, the Christian churches give legitimacy to the existence of sorcery, by preaching the existence of the devil in its various manifestations in demonic possessions, in voodoo and sorcery.
Witchcraft forbidden in early church
“In the early Christian church witchcraft of every kind was forbidden either on the ground of the emptiness of the practice or that of its positive godlessness and commerce with the devil,” the Christian Cyclopedia says.
“Early church made special rules of penance for those convicted of witchcraft.
At the beginning of the 13th century when the Inquisition was introduced, the use of magic and witchcraft was everywhere suspected and branded as a desertion of God for the service of evil spirits.
In 1231, Pope Gregory IX invoked the use of civil punishment against every form of heresy connected with sorcery.
“Toward the 15th century the provisions which brought witches under the power of the Inquisition were enlarged, so trials for witchcraft became very common.
Prosecution of witches spread into France, England, Germany, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands and involved the Catholic and Protestant churches during the 15, 16, 17 and 18 centuries.
The numbers of those killed were estimated in many thousands. Some of the tortures and ordeals resorted to in the examination of persons suspected of witchcraft were almost of a diabolical nature.” – Christian Cyclopedia.
The killings and kangaroo courts and tortures and murders associated with sorcery is not exclusive to PNG and other tribal societies.
Medieval European history, as we have seen, is filled with witchcraft and witch hunting which reached such heights during the Inquisition that defy belief.
“ In the early Christian church witchcraft of every kind was forbidden either on the ground of the emptiness of the practice or that of its positive godlessness and commerce with the devil.”
Mass hangings, burnings and gruesome torture were carried out under the seal of the Church of God on a magnitude that would put to shame what happens today in PNG.
The harm done there in the name of God is something to be reconciled by a court in a different realm because no court exists that can do it here on earth.
Europe is today free of this fearful practice, helped there by enlightenment and knowledge.
The witch-hunt and its dire consequences for those accused of practicing it followed Europeans to America in 1692 as is established in the celebrated case of Salem is the great Puritan state of Massachusetts.
Fighting sorcery today is an uphill battle because the Christian churches believe in its existence and preach it so.
While the open violence has been silenced for its diabolical nature in Europe by education, the spiritual contest against it continues there as here.
It lies at the heart of our Christian faith.
And this is the real issue, the burning issue that needs examination.
Sorcery and the violent response to it cannot be expunged until its roots, which are inextricably linked to matters of our faith, are exposed, washed clean, separated and then yanked out – with the full knowledge and concurrence of believers of the Christian faith whose public enemy number one is here under examination.
In the same way as Satan’s unwelcome presence in man’s life is made manifest by God’s welcome presence, Christian churches give credence to sorcery as a spiritual reality.
Seen under that light Sorcery is difficult to extirpate.
Look at it this way. True church postulates that there is a spiritual world where exists the forces of good under the command of God and his angels who do constant battle with the forces of evil under the command of the devil and his demons.
Sorcery today exists as the devil’s work and therefore only God can extinguish the evil.
This makes all attempt at isolating sorcery as a crime all the more difficult in communities held together by faith and this would count for most PNG communities where government presence and influence is absent.
Spiritual matters rule untrammeled while temporal welfare, including the law, are largely remote and neglected.
Seen in that light, removing sorcery from society as a meaningless figment of savage man’s imagination that has no place in modern society is impossible because it is now part of the package of modern day faith.
Sorcery is satan and it requires faith in Jesus Christ to extinguish or diminish its influence.
Scourge from savage past
In reality sorcery killings is the bane of modern Papua New Guinea, a scourge from the savage past come to haunt us.
Sorcery is claiming innocent lives in a country hurtling into the internet age with its face turned back firmly to fear of the unknown triggering frightening and insane tendencies.
Its eradication is going to require a whole of society response and that is going to start with education.
It will take time, the time it takes to come to terms with matters spiritual, matters of our beliefs and faith.
Sorcery hides in the dark places of our minds and feeds on our innermost fears. Its extraction requires a good dose of serious education and of an even keener re-examination of how we treat matters of faith.
- Frank S Kolma is a former editor of The National and commentator on national affairs. The opinions expressed here are not necessarily those of this paper.