In Papua New Guinea 17 people in total are being threatened after being accused of practicing witchcraft by a “witch-hunter” near the village of Wanakipa. The “witch-hunter” was called in after many people in the village fell ill to a strange disease that is now known to be measles. Anton Lutz, a Lutheran missionary in PNG’s Highlands, said “A witch-hunter, as it were, travelled from a village called Wanakipa, to the place where these women were and to identify them.” Of the accused group 13 are children and four are adult women, all of the same family. It is not uncommon for “witch-hunters” or “witch-smellers” to be sent for when something is happening in an area that the people do not fully understand.
The lives the 17 people that have been accused of witchcraft are in serious danger and as has happened in the past, it is possible that they will in fact be murdered. Anton Lutz said “This is happening in the Hewa language group, which extends between the northern part of Hela province and the western part of Enga province. It’s a very large group and they are well known for murdering women.” In the last couple of years there have been at least 20 murders of those accused of witchcraft. Due to many of these villages being remote and without governing agencies in or near them, it is nearly impossible to stop or control.
Here in the US this sort of behavior is nearly unbelievable, however, these accusations take place frequently. You find this type of violence in the remote and mostly undeveloped areas. The people in these areas have been stripped of their original, Pagan like, religions and practices and were taught Christianity by missionaries. After only a few generations the old traditions of their people have been lost and they are left with a warped idea that anything unknown, unusual, different or bad is the act of witchcraft and evil is happening. Even something as common as a young child wetting the bed is seen as the devil possessing a child or that the child was bewitched.
These people have been stripped of their knowledge, heritage and left uneducated and fearing a world that they once understood. This is what happens when remote people, unaware of the world around them, are forced to learn a religion that contradicts their own. They no longer know how to exist in the world that they know and after a couple of generations the old ways are forgotten and the missionaries, mostly, leave the area and move on to the next group to be “civilized.” If you thought that witch killings was something that stopped or only happened in the time of the Salem witch hunts, you are very wrong.