Churches Address SARV

Members of the PNG Council of Churches held a discussion today on addressing the issues of Sorcery-Accusation Related Violence (SARV) in Papua New Guinea.

In his opening remarks, Rev. Roger Joseph said the rising number of reported cases of SARV in rural PNG clearly shows that there is an emerging culture of misguided people taking the law into their own hands. Moreover, by doing this, they inflict physical abuse and barbaric acts of violence against innocent women and young children causing the death of many innocent lives.

Rev Joseph added that as church leaders, they call upon the government and concerned leaders to ensure that there are strong and effective social and justice policies that will empower village court systems to effectively arrest and punish anyone found indulging in such acts of violence. Also, to safeguard people’s wellbeing and to build on stronger Christian foundations of safer, more loving and happier, peaceful and resilient Christian communities in PNG.

Cardinal Sir John Ribat said each person has a fundamental right to their lives and that life is a precious gift from God . Therefore no one person has the right to terminate and that God in his own choice gave this life so that we live peacefully.

Cardinal Ribat was concerned that women are being affected the most and in most instances seen to be vulnerable and do not receive support when subjected to barbaric forms of abuse.

Many SARV cases were addressed during the conference, especially recent cases in the Southern Highlands Province and Enga. There is also the talk of finding solutions that will eradicate an atrocious culture that was not initially part of the Papua New Guinean way of life.

Representing the Lasallian Women of Hope, Bernadette Ove brought to discussion her propositions on resolving matters concerning SARV.

Ove said being a retired female educator of 42 years, she is very passionate about the transformation of lives through education and that it saddens her to see that SARV is prevalent in the Highlands region with almost all victims being women and girls.

She commended the churches for continuing to be the first responders coming to the aid of the survivors.

Ove said education is a powerful tool that can transform mindsets of anyone irrespective of gender, ethnicity, geographical or economic background.

Auxiliary Bishop Justine Soongie, after speaking of SARV cases in Enga, said enough talking has been done, it is time to act and get to the root cause and address it.

Former politician Dame Carol Kidu made the point that the more people remain silent, the more these things will be perpetuated.

She added, “Most influential influencer in the societies and communities throughout Papua New Guinea is the churches, and it’s the churches that will have, have been having and will continue to have a major impact in these areas.”

Dame Carol said that with the churches, it is vital to have the education department and committed political effort. She added it was pleasing to know that the political commitment has been working on policy and legislative reform.

Carol Kidu