Victims of witchcraft allegations safe and sound after joint operations

by Allanah Leahy – EM TV Online

Operations to save four women in the remote Hewa area of Enga province proved successful, following an intervention from police and missionaries over the weekend.

A measles outbreak was reportedly the initial cause of witchcraft allegations.

Anton Lutz, a missionary in the Highlands told the ABC in late December that a ‘witch hunter’ had pointed out the four women.

A video posted last week by missionary group New Tribes Foundation featured Hewa missionary Jonathan Kopf, who spoke of he and his group’s strenuous efforts to stop the killings.

“The tragic custom of the Hewa people, how they murder their own people; they believe that there are evil spirits inside of some of these women and children and so they believe that the only way to get rid of an evil spirit is to kill women or children.”

Kopf said attempts to stop or question the killings were futile compared to locals’ belief of their own culture and traditions.

“They thought when they were [on that path of their] ancestors, they actually thought they were doing good by killing their own sisters and relatives.”

Speaking on Radio Australia’s Pacific Beat program on Tuesday, Enga’s police deputy commander, Epenes Nili said the locals were ‘frightened’ of the police and missionaries’ presence.

“[The ‘witch hunter’] was hired with K6,000; the people from that area, they gathered around and then they forced her to show them that four women have a Sanguma.

“Because of the money and gifts and all that, she lied; she lied to the people at Fiyawena that the four women were possessed with this Sanguma spirit.”

He said four women, as well as five or six children had been captured and were kept in a location, ready to be murdered.

The deputy police commissioner said the ‘witch hunter’ confessed that all was a lie and made to return all the money and gifts she collected from the locals.

The police and missionaries then witnessed a ceremony that indicated a fresh start and a vow to never repeat such actions.

Ruth Kissam, a youth coordinator for the Western Highlands provincial government, described sorcery-related violence against women as a ‘national emergency’, creating a refugee crisis in some parts of the country.

Oxfam Australia’s research into gender-based violence revealed last year that sorcery-related violence is the most complex and biggest causes of gender-based violence in Papua New Guinea.

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