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Witch hunt killings worry Church activists

Christians in India are also involved in the disturbing murders, they say

  • Ajay Kumar Singh, Bhubaneswar
  • India
  • February 3, 2011
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Church activists in Orissa have condemned so called witch hunts in some parts of the eastern Indian state, which they say also involves Christians.

The latest case involved the killing of a brother and sister yesterday in the state’s Keonjhar district.
Kanda Hembram said he killed Sombari Chatar and her brother Utchaba Purthy because members of his family were suffering from a fever brought about by the dead woman’s husband.

“I cannot understand this blind belief. It is so entrenched. People willingly kill their own parents, siblings and other relatives,” said Divine Word Father John Baptist, who works in the area.

A Christian woman was last year hacked to death after being accused of witchcraft, he said.

Witch hunts are carried out mostly in rural and tribal areas. A person is punished, even killed, for bringing bad luck or illness to a village or family.

It is also considered as a way of grabbing land, settling scores or even punishing a woman for turning down sexual advances.

Father Manoj Nayak, who assists the social action arm of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar archdiocese, voiced his concerns.
“This is really worrying. We are at a loss as this belief is also held within the Christian community,” he said.

Father Nichalaus Barla, a tribal activist in Sundergarh district where a large number of witchcraft cases are reported, believes poverty is one major cause.
“When resources are less, people tend to find an excuse to do away with people who stand in their way,” he said.

According to some estimates, 150-200 women were accused of witchcraft and killed in India last year. Some 2,500 women have been murdered in witch hunts over the last15 years.

 

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