10/04/2023, 14.14
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Caritas Papua New Guinea condemns the violence by 'prayer warriors'

The Church called on the country's authorities to mobilise the forces of law and order to curb the rise in crime and violence. The groups behind the violence have nothing to do with the Catholic Church, which is committed to stopping the bloodshed.


Port Moresby (AsiaNews) - An unprecedented crime wave threatens to destroy Papua New Guinea’s social fabric, taking on various forms, domestic violence, tribal conflicts, and juvenile delinquency.

Scores of murders have been reported in the provinces of Madang, Morobe, Northern and Milne Bay in recent months, with the suspects also facing charges of witchcraft.

It is worrisome that “anecdotal information from reliable sources indicated that the number of deaths from violence and conflict was much higher than reported,” reads a statement by Caritas Papua New Guinea issued at a press conference held at the Archdiocese of Port Moresby with Auxiliary Bishop Justin Ain Soongie of Wabag, who is also vice president of Caritas Papua New Guinea (CPNG); Fr Giorgio Licini, PIME missionary and secretary general of the Bishops’ Conference; and Caritas PNG National Director Mavis Tito.

In this context, government silence is deafening. Bishop Ain Soongie said that in Wapenamanda, Enga province, people refused to get involved in ongoing tribal strife, asking instead for the police to intervene and restore peace.

People “waited for three weeks without any response; then eventually were forced to take matters into their own hands. As a result, there were many lives lost and widespread damages to infrastructure including residential houses, schools, health facilities and churches,” reads a statement by Caritas Papua New Guinea.

“People don’t choose to die, it is the wealthy and prominent elites who are sponsoring these fights through the purchase and transportation of guns and ammunition for the men in their tribes. They are responsible for all the lives lost. While they enjoy their luxurious lives in the city, people are dying in numbers in the villages.”

One of the groups involved in the crime wave is called Prayer Warriors, sometimes also “Ministry Group” and other names. “This is not a name or ministry recognized by the Catholic Church,” writes Archbishop Douglas Young of Mount Hagen. Instead, the Catholic Church condemns their actions since they “have been implicated in sorcery allegation-related violence,” he added.

Caritas PNG Director Mavis Tito explained that her organisation, which promotes human dignity, is deeply concerned about the unprecedented levels of violence occurring in different parts of the country. In view of this, she calls “on the government to condemn all actions that undermine human dignity and to commit itself to upholding this principle.”

Religious groups are the first to change course. Fr Licini praised parishes and important civil society groups, including the media, for trying to tackle violence, but also urged caution not to spread wrong news.

“The media is doing a commendable job in reporting on the issue but on September 20th, the Post Courier reported on its front page the prayer warrior arrested as being from the Catholic Church,” he said.

“While everyone belongs to a denomination, this issue needs more clarification as these are activities done by people who are clearly disconnected from their Churches”, he added.

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