Thursday, October 27, 2011

White Explorers versus Black Magic (And Black Jesus versus White Jesus)

Human sacrifice cult battles with police
By Nick Squires in Sydney 12:01AM BST 10 May 2007 UK Telegraph

Nick Squires' 2007 story about a "human sacrifice cult" in Papua New Guinea (linked to above) begins with the dire warning that Papua New Guinea was "undergoing a dramatic resurgence in sorcery and witchcraft," and that, in particular, a new "shadowy cult" had appeared that was "accused of beheading villagers and offering them as human sacrifices."

These macabre goings on, we are told, were taking place in "The central highlands [which] were only penetrated by white explorers in the 1930s and belief in black magic remains strong."

The obvious implication is that these hinterlands had still been insufficiently "penetrated" by "whites" to bring about the eradication of "black magic".

Here are some similar "news" stories from around the same time:

Police manhunt for cult leader who 'eats girls' Daily Mail, 8 Feb, 2007

Cult leader on the run in Papua New Guinea Sydney Morning Herald, June 2, 2006

Cannibal 'Black Jesus' Faces Death Penalty FOX News, March 20, 2007

But wait, what's this about a "Black Jesus"?? It turns out there is more to this story. The "cult" in question was led by a man calling himself "Black Jesus". His given (that is, "Christian") name is Steven Tari, and he received his religious education not at Hogwarts (or some other school that teaches "Sorcery and Witchcraft"), but rather at Amron Bible College, where he studied to be a Lutheran minister. After leaving the Bible College (accounts differ as to whether he dropped out or was expelled) he started claiming to be "the true Christ". This caused him to run afoul of officials with both Church and State, and eventually he was being widely accused of "raping, killing and eating young sex slaves."

Tari was captured in 2005, but then he escaped. As it turns out, his escape was facilitated by the Lutheran pastor who had been given the job of counseling Tari while in prison. Tari was captured again in 2007, only to escape again in 2010, but was then recaptured quickly. In October of 2010 Tari was convicted of raping four girls between the ages of 15 and 17 and, in December, he was sentenced to 20 years in prison.

The denouement of the story is told in the following two stories:

PNG's Black Jesus guilty of rape Sydney Morning Herald, Oct 8, 2010

Cult Leader Sentenced to 20 Years,, Dec 14, 2010

But wait, there's even more. Early reports about the doings of Steven "Black Jesus" Tari say nothing about "human sacrifice", although they do accuse him of sexually exploiting underage girls (the crime for which he was eventually convicted). But it appears that the girls who testified against Tari only did so after they were themselves arrested as criminals simply for being part of Tari's "cult" (see Patrick Matbob's article referred to and linked to in the next paragraph).

In a Nov 2007 article, Patrick Matbob (writing for the Fiji based "Islands Business" website) describes the beginnings of Steven Tari's "cult" in an article titled "Cult Worries Church Authorities". We find in that article, for example, that although Tari himself dropped out of (or was possibly expelled from) the Lutheran seminary that he attended, a number of registered Lutheran pastors were supporters of "Black Jesus":
"Lutheran Church authorities in Madang are particularly concerned because a number of the church’s registered pastors have joined the cult. This has confused church members in the area who are questioning whether the cult activities are being condoned by the church."
And in addition to the pastors who publicly supported Tari (while still publicly representing themselves as part of the Lutheran Church), there were others who continued to operate, in essence, as secret agents for Tari within the Evangelical Lutheran Church (about 1/5 of the PNG population is Lutheran). One of these underground supporters was none other than Pastor Logan Sepus, who masterminded a mass prison escape of Tari and his supporters in 2005.

The whole story of this "cult" and its leader and its followers is quite complex and fascinating. For a detailed "on the scene" account from someone who is highly critical of Steven Tari, check out anthropologist Nancy Sullivan's fascinating blogpost: Tari's Question. While discussing Steven Tari and how he fits in with the modern religious scene in PNG (and especially his relationship, or, at least according to Sullivan, total lack thereof) with the Dabsau Movement, founded by Yali Singina, Sullivan is primarily focussed on exposing Jared Diamond, the semi-famous author of Guns, Germs, and Steel, as a lying sack of shit. It's good stuff -- go and read it!!

Related posts to check out:

"Black Jesus Colored" (direct link) by Christopher Taylor at