5. juli 2014
Mitch Horowitz , New York Times skriver bl.a.:
Most people believe that the persecution of “witches” reached its height in the early 1690s with the trials in Salem, Mass., but it is a grim paradox of 21st-century life that violence against people accused of sorcery is very much still with us. Far from fading away, thanks to digital interconnectedness and economic development, witch hunting has become a growing, global problem.
In recent years, there has been a spate of attacks against people accused of witchcraft in Africa, the Pacific and Latin America, and even among immigrant communities in the United States and Western Europe. Researchers with United Nations refugee and human rights agencies have estimated the murders of supposed witches as numbering in the thousands each year, while beatings and banishments could run into the millions. “This is becoming an international problem — it is a form of persecution and violence that is spreading around the globe,” Jeff Crisp, an official with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, told a panel in 2009, the last year in which an international body studied the full dimensions of the problem. A report that year from the same agency and a Unicef study in 2010 both found a rise, especially in Africa, of violence and child abuse linked to witchcraft accusations.
More recent media reports suggest a disturbing pattern of mutilation and murder. Last year, a mob in Papua New Guinea burned alive a young mother, Kepari Leniata, 20, who was suspected of sorcery. This highly publicized case followed a series of instances over recent years of lethal group violence against women and men accused of witchcraft.
“These are becoming all too common in certain parts of the country,” said the prime minister, Peter O’Neill. Last year, Papua New Guinea finally repealed a 1971 law that permitted attackers to cite intent to combat witchcraft as a legal defense. But progress is slow. Although the police charged a man and woman in connection with the 2013 killing of Ms. Leniata, no one has faced trial, a fact that drew protest from Amnesty International in February.
Legal efforts must be paired with increased social awareness. In a promising model, a 2010 Oxfam International report noted that some Catholic parishes in Papua New Guinea have been teaching congregants about the natural causes of death and illness (common triggers for anti-witch paranoia), providing shelter to accused witches and denying the sacraments to those who accuse others of sorcery.
Crucial, too, is that the United Nations and international human rights organizations start compiling yearly statistics on these crimes. We’re severely hampered in understanding the scale of this crisis when our most recent global data are already five years out of date.
Most important, witchcraft-related violence should be branded as hate crimes by international courts and by all jurisdictions where anti-hate statutes exist. This is vital to gaining wider recognition of this criminality and preventing it.
In too many places, the accusation of witchcraft has become an incitement to mob violence. It is time to lay the ghosts of Salem to rest.
Mitch Horowitz is the author of “Occult America” and “One Simple Idea: How Positive Thinking Reshaped Modern Life.”
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