CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — On a tropical island in Papua New Guinea where most people live in huts, a mob armed with guns, machetes and axes stormed a wooden house by night. They seized Helen Rumbali and three female relatives, set the building on fire and took the women away to be tortured. Their alleged crime: Witchcraft.
After being repeatedly slashed with knives, Rumbali's older sister and two teenage nieces were released following negotiations with police. Rumbali, a 40-something former schoolteacher, was beheaded.
Her assailants claimed they had clear proof that Rumbali had used sorcery to kill another villager who recently died of sickness: The victim's grave bore the marks of black magic, and a swarm of fire flies apparently led witch hunters to Rumbali's home.
Violence linked to witch hunts is an increasingly visible problem in Papua New Guinea — a diverse tribal society of more than 800 languages and 7 million people who are mostly subsistence farmers. Experts say witch hunting appears to be spreading to parts of the country where the ruthless practices never took place before.
There is no clear explanation for the apparent uptick in killings in parts of the South Pacific nation, and even government officials seem at a loss to say why this is happening. Some are arguing the recent violence is fueled not by the nation's widespread belief in black magic but instead by economic jealousy born of a mining boom that has widened the country's economic divide and pitted the haves against the have-nots.
Thank you for posting, Kelly. For some reason dozens of Vancouver type "explorers" seem to favor PNG when they are prospecting for "treasure hunter" investors. Most know how that one
"pans out" in the end.