Informal public execution of two fathers on Akam island, off South-West coast Malekula, as reported in Daily Post issue N° 4329 of 19 November 2014, reveals how deep beliefs in evil forces are rooted in the spirit of people and communities throughout the archipelago, from top level down to grass-root level. More than a century after Gospel reached our shores, Christian faith seems helpless when it comes to deal with believes in black magic or witchcraft.
This is not the first time that a prayer group was involved in such incident. In November 2006 the police investigated a roman catholic prayer group called “Beatitude”, from Vao island off North-East coast Malekula, over death of a 18-year-old girl whose own father and mother also took part in her killing.
It’s in Daily Post issue N° 1871 of Tuesday 7 November 2006. They believed she was devil possessed and that her appearance was copied by “nakaimas” or witchcraft.
Beliefs in sorcery are not specific to Vanuatu. Still today in Vanuatu when peoples are suspicious about the cause of death of a person, they easily tend to designate a scapegoat, pointing finger to someone as responsible of such death using black magic or sorcery.
In the Middle Age in Europe, more than seven centuries ago, witchcraft was a crime and anyone declared witchcraft was burned alive at the stake. Many innocent people, mostly women, were declared witchcraft and burned alive at the stake. In France the historical figure Jeanne d’Arc, accused of witchcraft and declared heretic by an ecclesiastic tribunal, was burned alive at stake in 1431. Later on the judgment was reviewed, leading to her posthumous rehabilitation in 1456. Five centuries later, in 1920, she was declared “Saint Jeanne d’Arc” by Roman Catholic Church.
In Vanuatu, in this early 21st century, we are still in fact at a point where European nations were more than seven hundred years ago, when it comes to deal with black magic and witchcraft cases. Today most European nations no longer consider witchcraft a crime.
The Preamble of the Constitution of the Republic of Vanuatu proclaims ”…the establishment of the united and free Republic of Vanuatu, founded on traditional values, faith in God, and Christian principles”. In this respect following questions may be raised with leaders at all levels of our society:
• Is murder a Melanesian traditional value the Republic of Vanuatu, as a modern nation, can be founded on?
• Is murder in line with faith in God and the Ten Commandments?
• Is murder in line with Christian principles?
The motto of this nation is “Long God Yumi Stanap”, isn’t it?