In PNG someone can yell out "stealman" and point to someone, and a mob of people will surround the person, often beating them to get back what was stolen. In some ways, this brings quick justice, which can be a good thing, if someone stole something as it can be recovered, but in many ways it is bad. There is no trial, no judge and no jury – there is no way of knowing that the person accused of stealing actually did so. If someone wanted to, they can yell "stealman" and can falsely accuse someone, but the same outcome happens – the mob and the beatings, with no one thinking twice about what they are doing or if the person accused really did it or not.
It is one thing to have someone be accused of stealing and another thing to have someone be accused of being a witch. In PNG, as in some other countries, the belief that there are people who are witches, who are working to harm other people through black magic are very real. It is often hard for people to accept that someone has died in PNG no matter what the cause, so there is a cultural belief that someone is usually responsible for illness and death. So when someone becomes ill or dies, there are times when someone will accuse someone else of being responsible for it.
Just like when someone yells "stealman" and a mob of people are quick to decide what the punishment is, the same happens when someone is accused of being a witch. Without trial, judge or jury, the person who is accused is beaten, at times burned and too often killed – all without confirmation that the accusation was true. Too often the accused are women who are defenseless when left in the hands of the unruly mob, and too often the outcome is lethal before anyone could change the mobs mind.
It is tragic when it happens to anyone, but even mores when it happens to a child. Children are supposed to be looked after by their parents, by their families, by the adults around them, but when the accusation of being a witch comes up, the family is powerless to do anything. Very few can stand up to a mob, even when it is your loved one who is in harm's way. Thankfully, when bad things do happen to kids or women, there are people who do care, people who do try and get help and save or rescue the woman or the child.
Pray for the people of PNG, for the false witch accusations to stop, for the safety of women of children, for police to have the capacity to enforce the laws, for lawmakers to stand firm and make laws that matter, and for the culture to change, for love to win over fear and culture.