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Solutions to Sorcery and Witchcraft

Press Release – Australian National University

The widespread and problematic practice of sorcery and witchcraft in Melanesia are the focus of a research conference taking place at The Australian National University this Wednesday.ANU Media Release

News from the Australian National University

Monday 3 June 2013

Solutions to Sorcery and Witchcraft

The widespread and problematic practice of sorcery and witchcraft in Melanesia are the focus of a research conference taking place at The Australian National University this Wednesday.

The three-day conference, Sorcery and witchcraft-related killings in Melanesia, brings together researchers, human-rights activists, policy-makers, and victims of violence to develop solutions to the issue. The conference will also feature human rights defenders working with Oxfam International to stop sorcery-related violence in Papua New Guinea (PNG).

Conference co-convener Dr Miranda Forsyth from the ANU College of Asia and the Pacific said that belief in and practice of sorcery and witchcraft was pervasive in countries like PNG, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu.

“For example, these beliefs and practices impede economic development, because people are often afraid to be too successful because there are then accused of sorcery,” she said.

“They also impact on understandings of health as people are not inclined to seek medical assistance because they attribute illness to sorcery. They also lead to increased crime, because women or men who are accused of sorcery are attacked by the population who think that this is the only way to stop a misfortune that has fallen upon their community.”

Colleague and anthropologist Dr Richard Eves said the conference aimed to start a conversation on how to deal with the impact of sorcery and witchcraft.

“We are really keen to start moving towards developing appropriate interventions – whether they are legal, cultural, or educational – that we can make to address this issue,” he said.

“The fact that some cultures and societies in the region don’t actually engage in those horrific acts, opens the question of ‘why’. Therefore, we can start thinking about what factors inhibit people going down the path of violence to solve these issues.   
“People will also present papers showing how some of these issues have been dealt with by various NGOs, community groups, churches, and also by the state. We hope that we are able to learn some lessons that might benefit the region more broadly.”

Sorcery and witchcraft-related killings in Melanesia is hosted by the State, Society and Governance program and Regulatory Institutions Network in the ANU College of Asia and the Pacific.

A conference program and abstracts can be viewed at http://bit.ly/19riNcg

ENDS

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