Sent by God
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5. Innocently convicted

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Any of us could probably have concocted what might have happened if we did not know the entire plot of a story at one point in our lives. On the other hand, taking the step towards using such free imaginations in court is a pretty rare behavior for most of us.

Sven tells us that one of their pastors was visiting a family. Apparently the pastor was very tired during their conversation since he fell asleep as he sat in the hut. The conversation came to an end and the whole family except for a daughter, a young woman, left the hut. For some reason the others forgot about the pastor still being in there. Coincidently, some villagers happened to look into the hut and discovered that the pastor and the young woman were alone in there.

The villagers contacted the court of the village and accused the pastor of being intimate with the woman without being married to her. The pastor explained to both the court of the village and to me that nothing had happened – it was just an accident that they had been left alone in the hut. He slept there alone until the villagers woke him up. The young woman herself also tried to explain that absolutely nothing had happened. Nevertheless, the judge and the court of the village decided that the pastor would pay a pig as a ransom to the woman's parents because he had slept with their daughter.

"How can this be?” I ask Sven. We are sitting talking in Sydney and I am listening with increasing astonishment as Sven tells me about these screamingly funny events. Sven says: "Well, it resembles a lot of the thought process from the two previous stories. In the effort to solve a legal case you sit down and discuss how the incidence could have happened. Finally, after several long talks, a story is built up – a story that is not just a theory, but in some strange way has become the truth about what has happened. This is the basis for how the court of the village made up their minds about the pastor’s sentence." These events took place during the 1980s, so I decide to ask Sven if it is still like this in Papua New Guinea. Sven says he believes that in many respects, these occurrences still appear on a small village level but not in the higher court. Although, not a lot of cases go any further in their process.

So, how did it all turn out for the unjustly convicted pastor in the end? Sven: "I wanted to try to help the pastor so I asked the young woman if she was willing to be examined by a European doctor at the hospital. She agreed to do this and the doctor said that the woman was a virgin. You may think that this was enough evidence to prove that the pastor was innocent, but this meant nothing to the judge and court of the village. They stuck to their story and it was seen as the only valid "truth". The pastor was forced to leave his village because of his ruined reputation and thereafter he could never return."


Sven finishes by saying that similar events sometimes led to war. Because of imagination becoming "truth", a war between Kundi’s and Jack’s tribes almost broke out. These two tribes border on each other. One day a man from Jack's tribe was found killed on the border between the two tribal lands. Jack’s tribe assumed in the usual manner that it was someone from Kundi’s tribe who were guilty of the murder – without really knowing if it was true. In this case, one managed to stop it all at the last minute before a full-scale war broke out. In other cases, the outcomes of the imaginations were not so fortunate.

These were some of the many interesting and exciting experiences that Sven told us about from their time in Papua New Guinea, but now it is time for him to tell us how it all began.

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