When most people think of witch hunts they envision the Middle Ages when sorcery and witchcraft were a common part of life, and supposed witches would be dragged from their homes and burned at the stake for their “crimes.” Well the practice is still alive and well in one part of the world and its sadistic nature is enough to make anybody cringe.
Papa New Guinea is home to many impoverished and underdeveloped communities where people still believe that witchcraft is alive and well. A recent story has revealed the terrible tragedies that have resulted from the primitive manner of it inhabitants, some of which still carry spears and engage in ritualistic sacrifices to ward off bad spirits.
To be accused of being a witch in the poor nation is almost certainly a death sentence. One woman accused of sorcery was tied naked to a tree and tortured with hot branding irons prior to being burned to death by a crowd fired up on locally grown marijuana and home made alcohol.
Their primitive beliefs lead them to believe that common ailments such as a stomach infection that are left untreated and kill people are the result of voodoo or black magic. The nation’s HIV explosion has also led to many more deaths and and huge uptick in these savage lynchings.
A United Nations report has exposed that as the dirt poor nation is plundered for its resources these lynchings are becoming more common as the region becomes more developed. It said that unexpected hard luck or sudden illness can all be blamed on witchcraft and that the villagers will find unsuspecting victims to blame.
The woman who was tied to a tree was accused for the deaths of two young men, she was in her 40’s and single with a young child and no male family which made her a prime target for lynching.
She was stripped naked, slashed with knives, and given a mock trial by a mob of drunk and drugged young men who demanded she give up the identity of the real witch or face certain death. A few days later she was tied to a steel mattress frame, spread eagle, and tortured some more with hot branding irons. She was then burned alive while an angry crowd looked on with pleasure.
The same young men responsible for her death were to believed to have tortured a woman so badly months earlier that her genitals were fused together beyond repair.
Last year a 20 year old mother was accused of witchcraft after a young boy in her village died. She was dragged from her home and burnt alive, again in front of a crowd and a photograph of the event was captured. This story made headlines in a local paper with the title “Burned Alive,” which showed the picture of the young woman engulfed in flames.
She was stripped naked, hands and feet bound, tortured, then dragged to a pile of rubbish where she was doused in gasoline and set ablaze. The locals then threw burning tires on top of her as she screamed in agonizing pain. The people surrounding the incident blocked police and firefighters from coming in to help her as she was burned to death.
International outcry at the inhumanity of such acts cause the Prime Minister of PNG to react and condemn the killings, saying such acts are “reprehensible” and have no place among their society but it hasn’t helped any.
In one year alone there were over 200 similar lynching that resulted in death for the accused. They were either thrown off cliffs, drowned, tortured to death, or burned alive because of the accusations. According to the UN report these incidents are on the rise as the country is becoming rapidly modernized.