Wednesday, March 24, 2010

PNG Culture

There are some things about the PNG culture that I still don't understand, not sure if any of us here really do, and this is one of them.
Anytime there is a death, there is a haus cri. This is where the lain (relatives), village people, and friends come to pay their respect. However, it isn't just paying their respect, it is making sure you are grieving appropriately. If you don't show appropriate grief then you may be considered responsible for the person's death through witchcraft. What that appropriate grieving is, I really don't know. I have seen some people with nubs of fingers because they cut them off when someone died to show they were really sorry and it wasn't them.
We recently had a prominent village leader die in the community just below us from a heart attack. They had a prolonged haus cri for about 2 weeks before finally "planting him in the ground." Following this we have seen 2 people admitted to the hospital who were tortured for suspected witchcraft that they claim was responsible for his death. There are many things about this that I don't understand - who decides who is a witch and who isn't, what are characteristics of a witch that they see, who determines who the group of people are who are going to go and carry out this torture, why if they thought the first person was responsible did they go after someone else, when does it stop, does this happen after every person dies?
None of the missionaries really know the answers to these, so today I asked some of our nurses about it. They told me that the first lady was apparently not given protein (everyone makes a big deal out of protein in PNG, maybe because they don't always eat it, often just eating kaukau (sweet potatoe) and kumu (veggies)). Anyway, supposedly after she didn't get protein, she went and hired another person to help kill the village leader. So after the cri, folks from the village dragged her out of her house when her husband wasn't there and beat her and drown her, before they finally stopped and someone brought her to us. Apparently they torture you until you admit you did it and give them other names. So after her torture, they went after this other guy. They drove to his place and brought him back and then tortured him. Apparently this guy eventually confessed to doing it along with this other lady.
When I asked what will happen to this lady they said she can't go back to that village or they will kill her so she has to go to her place. What happens to her husband? - that is yet to be determined. If he supports her, does that show that he too was involved? If he doesn't support her, then their marriage likely ends if she can't come back to the village - a no win situation. The village life isn't easy, especially with all these cultural things that seem so hard to change. The nurses say this is a very common thing that happens out in the bush, but this village isn't in the bush, they are 5 minutes from our station. They have been neighbors to the mission for 50 yrs, have a church there, and one would think would know the difference between right and wrong, but that hasn't proven the case.
Bill and Jim have gone to the village to try and talk with them and pray with them. Pray with us that this torture stops, they would know the truth, see the light, and that the Holy Spirit would work in their lives.