Understand science to combat sorcery

Fr Philip Gibbs says that one of the factors that gives rise to sorcery is that people often don’t understand the basic science behind a person’s health.

He was speaking at the Sorcery and witchcraft-related killings in Melanesia: Culture, law and human rights perspectives Conference  at The Australian National University in Canberra, last week.

The conference was attended by a number of people seen to be critical to solving the problem of sorcery killings in PNG.

Sorcery in PNG has been in the spotlight for a number of recent gruesome incidents involving women being tortured and killed after being accused of witchcraft.

One of the main topics discussed at the conference is the influence of churches in PNG, and how they can bring about change.

Gibbs said when someone dies, some people will immediately blame black magic and hunt down the alleged sorcerer, and then proceed to torture and kill them.

He says a culture of blame and revenge is pervasive in PNG, and people need to be better educated.

“To try to help people come to a more scientific understanding of how things happen and why things happen. For instance, if somebody has an accident here usually the question asked will be ’well, who’s behind it?’ They’re always looking for a personalised form of evil that’s behind it.”

Fr Philip Gibbs, SVD, is from New Zealand. He is a Divine Word Missionary and was ordained in 1978. Fr. Philip is an anthropologist and directs the Melanesian Institute in Goroka, Papua New Guinea.


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News category: Asia Pacific.

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