She’s a witch, burn her.
This is a humorously intoned line from Monty Python’s search for the Holy Grail. One of my all time favorite movies.
For those who are unfamiliar the scene is involves people using horrible logic to justify burning a woman for witchcraft. It’s meant to poke fun at the ignorance of days gone by, or at least that is what I would like to believe. Unfortunately there are still places in the world where people are killed for witchcraft.
In Papua New Guinea
a 20 year old woman was stripped naked, beating covered in gas and set on fire because they believed she had killed a local six year old with a curse. Police and firemen who attempted to help her were thwarted by the mob who set her on fire in the first place. From what I can tell this sort of practice is actually quite common in Papua New Guinea.
It is hard to imagine that religion did not play a part in this considering passages like Exodus 20:18: “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.” Especially since the majority of Papua New Guinea is protestant Christian (65.48%), with most of the rest a mix of Catholics (17.67%), and Muslims (15.89%). Though to be fair there are also ministers there speaking out against this kind of behavior.
It is sad to see that in some places in the world people still blame disease on supernatural causes and then kill people out of their imaginary fears. You know, I’ve been occasionally told I’m too judgmental by people. “You like the freedom to choose your own way, but refuse to allow others that same freedom,” I’ve been told. My response is always the same. Some choices are better than others, some ways of examining the world will necessarily produce better answers. Our knowledge of the universe is still quite limited, but we do know why people get sick and I can’t help but feel that if these people had been given science text books on germ theory instead of bibles this woman would still be alive. If that makes me judgmental, so be it.
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