An Outbreak of Measles
After an outbreak of measles in Papua New Guinea brought death to the Hewa village, a witch hunt began. Blame had to be assigned. Someone had to be held responsible. And in Hewa culture that someone would be a woman or child accused of being possessed by evil spirits.
Accusations were brought against four woman, along with 13 of their family members. These accusations didn’t need to be substantiated. Their innocence didn’t matter. They stood accused of witchcraft and that meant a death sentence.
The police came in and gave warnings. But ultimately, fear of the spirits would overrule fear of the authorities.
“Four months from when the police, missionaries and government officials went into our neighbouring village to warn people that witch killing was illegal and would carry severe consequences — four months to the day — a woman named Mifila [who was accused of witchcraft] was brutally murdered,” wrote missionaries John and Jessi George. “Her brother claimed that he could and would protect her if anyone tried to kill her. But when a large group of armed men come in with guns … so they can chop your sister with axes and machetes there really is nothing you or anybody else can do about it.”
A Mass Exodus
And the danger has not passed. There are others in the village marked as witches. And if nothing is done, they too will meet the same fate as Mifila.
“A mass exodus [is] planned for many women and children who are currently marked as witches,” the Georges’ wrote. “Plenty of times before … they have come to us asking about leaving, then decide the threats against them are not real… Now, Mifila’s death has them all scared, so many who were not ready before to take the giant step of leaving their homes, families, gardens and even language to go somewhere new where they will be safe are now begging to go.”
But this “exodus” is being threatened. Some are saying to “hurry up and kill them before they can escape,” Jessi recently wrote. Your prayers can make a difference. Pray for a protective hedge around these falsely accused women and children as they await flights. Pray for their transition to a new village with a new language and a new culture. And do not forget to pray for God’s truths to reach into the hearts and minds of those making the accusations and carrying out the brutal attacks. Only then will lasting change come.