If you’re going to dispose of a witch, I suppose it’s only natural to try to burn her, right? That’s what a tribe in Papua New Guinea did with Kepari Leniata, a 20-year old woman who was accused by her neighbors of using witchcraft against a young boy. The tribespeople stripped her, soaked her in gasoline and tossed her into a fire alive in Mount Hagen in the Western Highlands.
Police and firefighters tried to save the woman but were vastly outnumbered by villagers and chased away. The police are treating this as a murder case and vow to arrest and prosecute those responsible. “There is no possible justification for this sort of violence. We hope that appropriate resources are devoted to identifying, prosecuting, and punishing those responsible for Ms Leniata’s murder,” said Provincial police commander Supt Kaiglo Ambane.
This is not particularly uncommon in the region, where primitive religious people view mysterious deaths and illnesses as the result of witchcraft. Some even suggest that accusations of witchcraft by the locals have been viewed by some as an excuse and justification for murder.
The crime has been decried by governments across the globe and has sparked a new round of talks dedicated to toughening laws to handle these increasing violent crimes, but face a lot of opposition amongst traditional peoples whose religion and culture are based on such beliefs. It is questionable if any such laws will actually stop these primitive practices, certainly the incidence of witchcraft-based murder has increased over the years without regard to a 1971 law which criminalizes such things. I’m really not sure why burning people alive needed a special law against it, but who am I to judge?
Is it any wonder why I assert that religion and superstition cause so many horrors?