By Leonard Fong Roka
Since the early 1990s Bougainville has had its share of the duty of ridding itself from suspected sorcerers. Such a mission materialized as Bougainvillean men had the revolutionized status as defenders of the community during the early days of the Bougainville Crisis.
As I remember, there was a spontaneous rise in the number of killings related to sorcery across the troubled island in the early 90s. Most were done by the armed men who had the power over Bougainville at that time.
“Sorcery is just the people’s thinking,” one victim of sorcery suspicion from Panguna told me.
“They just cannot explain my way of life in relation to our community interactions and events experienced, thus I am isolated as a sorcerer causing them sufferings or setbacks.”
This person had repeatedly narrowly escaped death from his own relatives. From his words I see light that Bougainville needs to see. From Buka to Buin, we need light as to where we stand in our belief in sorcery and our struggle to bring Bougainville forward.
In the root we should know that we had religions of our own before white men came and introduced his kind of religion. This brings to us the problem of ‘dual affiliations’ to Christianity and the traditional religions of our ancestors.
Our thinking is caught in an entanglement and the more self-centred we are, the more we are troubled.
Our minds combine Christianity and the traditional belief systems, thus it cannot work out the right over wrong so easily. That means our minds are blocked off and placed on the extreme troubled position thus we see our own failures as spiritually engineered by others in our midst.
When likeminded persons get together and share and spread their fantasies, fear engulfs communities and eventually an innocent man or woman becomes the victim.
Recently women have also been accused for being sorcerers and they have been killed. According to Bishop Don Lippert (2015) in Mendi, public torturing of woman is not part of our culture but rather it is a pornographic perversion which masquerades as culture or custom. This is really sad and as a Bougainvillean I would be ashamed to hold a woman responsible for misfortune of my own.
In some areas of Bougainville sorcerers have canteens; sorcerers are in the classroom as students; and in certain sections of the village, lived sorcerers. People do not want to build better houses because there is a sorcerer watching them. Thus they have to remain in the squalid homes just like the sorcerer.
In Bougainville, the poorest communities tend to have many more sorcery believers than the affluent communities. The disadvantaged communities I lived in have also divided their areas and even persons between sorcerers and non-sorcerers.
My dear daughter Dollorose passed away in September of 2015. Soon afterwards her tomb was surrounded with a 2-metre high fence at Nakorei Village in Buin. This was in fear of sorcerers coming and destroying her body or spirit, but I was not entirely sure of this myself.
Since September until today, family members are still not sleeping in peace and for to them we have to secure the tomb with a heavy concrete to put the sorcerers off.
I did asked once why this was happening and my partner told me it was because sorcerers will dig into the tomb so it has to be guarded until we have a concrete over the tomb. She told a tale of a sorcerer that dug up a grave at Kanauro Village. Thus I followed her story to Kanauro and of more than five people I asked to confirm the tale told, not one knew such an event occurring in their community or to a dead relative.
I feel free in my area of the Panguna District since we hardly talk about sorcerers and sorcery, but life is too hard in Buin since I am glued from moving freely by imaginary fears of a non-existent killing machine.
This keeps back us from developing and doing good things for ourselves and our communities; and in the long run, Bougainville will not see progress since we the people are locked in our private fantasy worlds of fear, but our fears are unfounded in reality.
Our imaginations holding us back from advancing at the individual level and the community level for the overall good of Bougainville. This is the twenty first century but Bougainvilleans who are crying for an independent nation are succumb into the pit of the prehistorical quagmire that is irrelevant for advancement.