RADIO NEW ZEALAND INTERNATIONAL | Compiled from reports
The comment by conference general secretary, Father Victor Roche, comes after a move by Speaker Theo Zurenuoc to remove traditional carvings from the iconic parliamentary building’s facade.
Mr Zurenuoc says the carvings are elements of cult and demonic practices and unworthy of a Christian country.
Father Roche says fundamentalists cannot seem to distinguish between the novelty of the Gospel and the need to preserve PNG’s cultural heritage.
“Fundamentalism is on the rise,” he said. “Many mainline churches are losing some of their believers to smaller sects and some of these members are also either in the places of power in parliament or government offices, or they’re influenced by others who are members of those groups.”
Meanwhile, the vice-chancellor of the University of Goroka, Gairo Onagi, says sorcery-related violence in PNG must be tackled on a spiritual level.
Dr Onagi told a conference that belief in sorcery is embedded within PNG culture and cannot be taken away.
“Personally I think it is a spiritual matter and the churches must rally behind this because I have witnessed myself that the churches have that spiritual sense to do something about it,” he said. “Only then the law can support the spiritual method in which it can be dealt with, we can see some good, tangible results.”
As if proving Dr Onagi’s point, a PNG health worker at the conference said the suggestion that sorcery is a creation of people’s minds is simply untrue.
Richard Kavare, a human rights officer with Laity Mobile Health Services which flies vaccines and other essential medical supplies and services into remote areas said he has evidence to disprove the assertion that sorcery is a concept people bring into their minds to make it happen.
“If you push a knife through a witch, it won’t even hurt the witch,” he said. “It will just bounce as though the knife is blunt. If you put a hot rod of iron into the witch body it won’t even have any impact. It will just come out cold, freeze.”
At the same conference, an Australian academic said some women in the Southern Highlands have been attacked after sorcery accusations have been those adopting non-traditional roles.
Nicole Haley of the Australian National University said men are leaving the community to seek work and so more women are doing things like cutting the bush and digging drains as well as living independently.
“When these women were being interrogated they were being asked, you know, ’Where are your guns, where are your army uniforms’ and things. And so they were through the interrogation being accused of behaving like men,” Ms Haley said.