For now I want to talk about witches. I have had a lot of questions about the recent witch events in Hewa, so I wanted to address some of those FAWQ (frequently askes witch questions).
Most of you were so amazing to keep up with these events and pray for them, so I really wanted to do some better explaining. As most of you know there was a terrible measles outbreak in Hewa over the summer. There were several deaths all over the region which caused 13 women and their children to be accused of being possessed by evil spirits who caused the sicknesses and deaths. Feeling overwhelmed with the urgency of the situation, our co-worker in the tribe reached out for help knowing that we couldn't evacuate all of those involved (and knowing that most of their families wouldn't have allowed it if we could).
With the help of another missionary in the area, they were able to get several local religious leaders and law enforcement officers to come into the village where the threats were being made. There were days of discussions but the main goal was to make it known that murdering these women and children would have serious consequences. During these proceedings the witch who accused the other women and children took back her claim and made a promise to never mark anyone else again. Most of the villagers also made a commitment to stop witch killing.
Here is a link to an article about the proceedings...
Now to answer your questions...
1. How do they decide who is a witch and who isn't?
Sometimes it is random, sometimes it involves a personal vendetta, but the general idea is that a woman unknowingly ate human flesh disguised as sweet potato or pig meat and she is now possessed by an evil spirit that craves human flesh. That spirit leaves her body at night and eats the insides of other people causing them to become sick and die. The marked woman has no control over this action and can do nothing to stop it. If she is nursing a child, then the child is automatically a witch as well because it has consumed human flesh through the act of nursing.
2. Will the witch who accused the others be punished?
No. She is actually an accused witch herself. She has survived by marking others. If she keeps her commitment to no longer name others as witches then she will probably eventually be killed.
3. Has this ever happened before? Someone taking back the claim that someone else is a witch?
I honestly don't know, but I have never heard of it happening. Sometimes a person in a village will accuse someone of being a witch and later a shaman or witchdoctor will come in and say that the accusation was wrong. Typically, though, once the seed is planted in the Hewa minds that someone is a witch no amount of recanting can change that. People who have ever even been in question have to live very cautiously.
4. Will this stop the witch killing in Hewa?
No. These events happened in one specific village in one specific area. It will certainly help. It will definitely buy time for these ladies and probably all the others marked as witches. When sickness and death occur in the villages, the fear and drive to do something to stop those deaths becomes overwhelming. People (especially parents) will revert to what they have always believed-what they have been taught since birth- when they feel hopeless and powerless in the face of the illness and death of a loved one.
What will truly help the situation is when inevitably another witch murder occurs, for local law enforcement to carry out legal punishment for all those involved.
And of course the only real solution is for the Gospel to be proclaimed in ALL of Hewa and for the Holy Spirit to convict their hearts that this is wrong...but that will take time...time that these women did/do not have. So... as of now we are so very thankful for the help and intervention of our local government and the other church officials who spent the time and money to come in and defend these innocent women and children.
I also wanted to thank all of you for caring and praying for these ladies and their children. Your prayers are felt and greatly appreciated! Please keep praying for all of Hewa and this specific tragic practice.
|Susan and I with Tiko and her son Wanapis. Tiko is a marked witch who we evacuated after learned of a plot to kill them both.|
|This is Tiko and (the boy standing) Wanapis almost two years later with the missionary to the tribe where they were relocated. As you can see they are happy and thriving. She and her husband have even had another precious baby boy.|