An outrageous event is making news around the world.
A woman has been tortured and burned alive in Papua New Guinea after being accused of using sorcery to kill a young boy, local media report.
The woman, a mother aged 20 named as Kepari Leniata, was stripped, tied up and doused in petrol by the boy’s relatives in Mount Hagen in the Western Highlands, said the National newspaper.
She was then thrown onto a fire in front of hundreds of people.
Provincial police commander Supt Kaiglo Ambane told the National that police were treating the case as murder and would arrest those responsible.
The article notes that deaths and mysterious illnesses are sometimes blamed on suspected sorcerers in the Pacific Islands. But it’s not confined to just there. Accusations of witchcraft are not uncommon in India, Saudi Arabia and Africa. Thousands of people around the world, usually women and children, are accused of practicing witchcraft, blamed for a misfortune, tortured, exiled or even killed. In many areas, this persecution is on the rise.
Leo Igwe is an activist against these dangerous superstitions. He wrote a commentary last week about Witch Killing and Africans. While not in the Pacific Islands, as is the referenced story, the same roots exist and the same hurdles must be overcome to stop these injustices.
Poverty, misery, frustration, desperation and hopelessness have driven many Africans to look for scape goats or somebody to hold responsible or blame for the ills of the society. Many Africans consult and rely on spiritual healers and diviners, prophets, imams and pastors who often attribute social problems to malevolent magic and witchcraft. Witches are generally percieved to be enemies of the society. So suspicion of witchcraft evokes feelings of hatred, anger and vengance. People react violently towards anyone identified as a witch in a family or community. People believe a witch deserves no mercy or compassion. They believe a witch should be tortured and suffered to die as written in the christian scripture.
Efforts by state authorities to combat this cultural scourge has so far proved ineffective. The reason is that sometimes authorities do not want to take action that would go against local tradition or offend the cultural sensibilities of the people.