COMMENTARY: By Anton Lutz
The sun rises over a strange landscape. Come with me and meet these people over here.
Even though they have stayed awake all night, now that the sun has risen, they are jumping up and down, singing happy songs and even expressing tears of joy.
Next to them, there is a wooden post freshly buried in the ground. There is carved writing on the post which reads: “Memory of Year 2000″.
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It was New Years Day, January 1, 2000, and this small community somehow thought that the sun might not rise, ever again.
Why? Because someone had come to their village and told them stories about the Year 2000, Y2K, and how the sun might not rise, ever again. The villagers believed the stories.
They gathered firewood to prepare for the endless night to come and set up vines to their outhouses so they could find them in the dark. At midnight, they drove the carved pillar into the ground, and then stood awake, praying through their fear, until the sun finally rose and they began to celebrate!
Amazing true story, right? But I wonder what would have happened if someone had told them a different story.
What if …?
What if someone told them that since it is Y2K, the sun might not rise again unless each family sacrificed their oldest child by burying them alive at midnight?
What if someone told them that the right way to ensure the sun will rise again is to blame a witch and torture her, burn her skin, threaten to kill her and terrorise her children? Would they have tortured innocent citizens of Papua New Guinea trying to get the sun to rise?
People have believed the strangest things on the worst evidence. When you believe wrong things, you do wrong things too. My ancestors believed wrong things. Your ancestors believed wrong things.
Anton Lutz on sorcery-related violence in Papua New Guinea in a 2020 video.
The Y2K villagers believed wrong things. Luckily, they didn’t hurt anyone as a result of their wrong beliefs.
Telling the truth
Here’s a thought: What if someone had told the villagers the truth? Planet Earth revolves on an axis and orbits a star. That is the reason why we experience sunrises and sunsets, years and seasons.
Unless the 5.9 sextillion metric tons of planet Earth — spinning at 30km per second — comes to a stop, or unless the star unexpectedly collapses into a black hole, there is every reason — barring a supernatural, multi-dimensional or alien apocalypse — to think there will be sunrises and sunsets on planet Earth for the next 7.6 billion years.
This means that we should use the time we have to be curious and to examine evidence and to educate our children in the truth.
Just because someone came to our village once upon a time and told us an amazing story about how “dangerous” women need to be tortured sometimes, that doesn’t mean we should just believe it.
There will be a sunrise tomorrow. Let’s make sure it’s a better day.
Anton Lutz has lived in Papua New Guinea for 30 years. He works with remote communities on infrastructure development projects, and is a leading advocate against sorcery accusation-related violence. This article was first published on the PNG Post-Courier and is republished with permission.
This content originally appeared on Asia Pacific Report and was authored by APR editor.