Postmodern Faith Response to Sorcery Accusations in Papua New Guinea

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Philip Jeferson Gibbs


In this paper I discuss how a plurality of mini-narratives, logics, worldviews, and interpretive frameworks, typical of a postmodern understanding of the world contributes to the complexity of dealing with the issue of sorcery and witchcraft accusations and violence in contemporary Papua New Guinea. The standard response of missionaries has been to appeal to people’s intellect, inferring that those believing in witchcraft accusations are ignorant and they should be educated based on the findings of modern science. However, such a scientific approach has had limited success. Religious faith as an interpretive framework can provide an alternative or helpful accompaniment to views based on scientific logic and causality. A pre-scientific “magical” view is one possibility, but there are more appropriate alternatives, taking post-modern developments into account, if the Church can inspire and motivate people to pursue alternative causal thinking leading to peaceful solutions to life’s misfortunes.  I propose that a faith response can be relevant, not as a master-narrative from a position of dominance, but in encountering truth by responding respectfully to the “multiple belonging” of narratives, logics, worldviews and interpretive frameworks typical of a post-modern approach to reality.  I suggest four possible ways forward:  further reflection on a theology of death, relevant Biblical studies focusing on Jesus’ ministry, consideration of the magical mindset compared with the Christian mind-set in assigning cause to an event, and a realistic liberative Christian response to currentday social concerns.


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