PNG Highlands bishop leads call to combat sorcery violence
Initiative in Papua New Guinea to achieve a greater commitment from key authorities to combat sorcery related violence.
There are calls for a commitment beyond lipservice to overcome sorcery related violence in Papua New Guinea.
In Mendi in the Southern Highlands, a community effort backed by the Catholic Church and others is seeking a high level commitment on a strategy to tackle the violence.
Reports of accusations of sorcery to justify violent attacks, particularly on women, have been becoming more and more prevalent in PNG as the Bishop of Mendi, Don Lippert, explained to Don Wiseman.
DON LIPPERT: You think that as time went on it would get less and less, and we've been seeing no lessening in these attacks of mainly women who are accused of sorcery.
DON WISEMAN: The church along with a lot of other people in the community have been working on this initiative, what are you aiming to do specifically to combat this sorcery-related violence?
DL: The church has kind of been the convener but there are many sectors of the community who want to see an end to this terrible atrocity really. And so we have to go at it at two angles. We have to change people's thinking but we have to change people's behaviour, especially the behaviour of those who perpetrate these kinds of atrocities. So we want to try to put together an action plan, multi-sectoral, touching all various areas of our community and thereby make some kind of real change in the lives of the people because it's something that destroys families and communities and just cannot continue.
DW: For it to work, you've got to have high level commitment?
DL: That's exactly right, and so far we've not really had a lot of high level commitment, and we have secondary, tertiary level people involved in this and grassroots people, but so far not much high level attention has been given to this. Maybe more than lipservice but no real commitment. So that's going to be our next approach is to try and solicit some high level, top tier involvement in this process. It'll be absolutely necessary.
DW: Yes although you would imagine to overcome something that seems to have become so ingrained like this, it needs to come from the bottom up, rather than be imposed the other way.
DL: Right, but there needs to be the support from the top level people and sometimes they turn a blind eye to it. But you're absolutely right, and every sector that reported yesterday on their goals and objectives included a very important component of awareness that needs to be raised. From education to police to NGO to health, all of us realise that it has to begin with education and awareness. The belief may take a long time to root out. however the practice is against the laws of Papua New Guinea, it's against the laws of the international community. So we need to work on letting people know who perpetrate these things that there will be consequences. Right now many people just get away with it, with impunity.
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