This is an example of the kind of thing that should no longer happen anywhere in the world. Seriously, what in the hell can you even say about something like this?
Sorcery. Goddamned sorcery.
A young mother accused of sorcery was stripped naked, doused with petrol and burned alive in front of a crowd including schoolchildren in Papua New Guinea, reports said on Thursday.
The woman, named by The National newspaper as Kepari Leniata, 20, was reportedly tortured with a branding iron and tied up, splashed with fuel and set alight on a pile of rubbish topped with car tyres.
All of this started when a six year old boy died earlier in the week after suffering stomach and chest pains. Kepari was accused and later admitted to the crime (whether or not she was tortured to confess, I don’t know). As they were setting her on fire, there were police and other emergency responders in the area, but they were deliberately blocked and could get in to save her.
Go mob mentality.
There is a widespread belief in sorcery in the poverty-stricken Pacific nation where many people do not accept natural causes as an explanation for misfortune, illness, accidents or death.
I looked up some of the information on Papua New Guinea. According to the US Department of State, 96% of the population considers themselves Christian. Normally we don’t really think of Christians of today’s era pulling shit like this, but here’s the important caveat:
Many citizens combine their Christian faith with some pre-Christian traditional indigenous practices.
This is what missionaries should expect when they try to convert a completely foreign people to their religion. They’re going to tailor that religion to match the kind of culture they already have, not adjust their way of life to accommodate it. If the people of Papua New Guinea were dangerously superstitious and never developed any sort of naturalistic explanations for phenomena like illness or death, then with or without Christianity, they’re going to interpret anything that falls outside of their limited understanding as sorcery, magic, or the work of evil spirits.
As I said about a week or two ago, it’s not so much the content of the religion that’s the source of the problem as where the it takes hold and the sophistication of the culture that embraces it. Are they literate? Educated? Do they embrace secular law? The scientific method? Some basic form of equal rights? Keep in mind exactly where we were as a culture when the Salem Witch Trials went down. They weren’t all that long ago, in the scheme of things … and there are plenty of parallels with the current situation:
The US embassy in the Papua New Guinea capital Port Moresby issued a statement strongly condemning the “brutal murder” of Leniata, who had an eight-month-old daughter, as evidence of “pervasive gender-based violence”.
… like the fact that the accusations of sorcery tend to target women as a way to cover up what would otherwise have been some kind of allegation against a male perpetrator. For example, a man tries to force himself on a woman. She fights back and rejects his advances. As revenge, he accuses her of witchcraft and whips up the fury of a mob to back him up. And, since the bible tells us not to suffer a witch to live, it’s pretty clear what needs to be done.
The cure for this dangerous and deadly level of superstition and lack of understanding of the natural world is education. Whether it’s the people of Papua New Guinea who still think magic spirits are responsible for the weather or it’s a Christian family in the Bible Belt who are convinced that the Earth is 6000 years old and evolution is a fraud, education and the encouragement of rational inquiry are the most important tools in removing the dangerous superstitions at the root of all faith based belief systems.