Guma Culture
From the Kundiawa News 50 years ago today

Revivalist churches dangerous campaign for 'faith-healing' AIDS

Pastor Godfrey WipponLIAM COCHRANE | Australia Network News | Extract

REVIVALIST churches in Papua New Guinea are promoting prayer as a substitute for medication to those with HIV, according to human rights groups.

PNG is a deeply Christian society, and most mainstream churches are trying to improve attitudes to those living with HIV.

But with poor medical facilities and a widespread belief in sorcery, belief in faith healing is growing.

Ten years ago, PNG was on the brink of an AIDS explosion.

"The original thinking in PNG, given the facts and figures around sexually transmitted infections and unwanted teen pregnancies - behavioural information - certainly gave us the idea that we were heading towards a sub-Saharan African style epidemic," UNAIDS country co-ordinator Stuart Watson said.

But that generalised epidemic has not happened.

Instead, the virus has been localised to the Highlands, Morobe Province and the National Capital District.

High-risk communities include sex workers, men who have sex with men and transgender people, as well as those who travel for their work.

Margaret Anton, president of Women Affected by HIV/AIDS, is one of an estimated 25,000 Papua New Guineans living with HIV.

And like many she has faced discrimination from family and friends.

"When people found out I was HIV positive, when I had TB, they didn't want anything to do with me," she said.

"Sometimes I would spend nights on the road, for shelter I would find a tree to sleep under."

That sort of discrimination even finds a voice in the country's mainstream media.

Timothy Pirinduo is a columnist in PNG's only locally-owned newspaper.

He believes HIV was created in a lab by crazy scientists, and wants new laws to make HIV testing compulsory.

"Once we identify those with HIV/AIDS, then we can separate them from those who are not affected," he said.

"Separating them would be like keeping them in a confinement, kind of a prison kind of set-up."

While Mr Pirinduo's HIV prison is just an idea, deadly preaching is a reality.

Pastor Godfrey Wippon (pictured) heads PNG's Revival Centres and says his is the fastest growing religious movement in the country.

"It is growing because of healings, miracles, wonders, science happening in this ministry. The Lord heals," he said.

On a beach in Port Moresby, revivalists gather to sing and watch as new recruits are baptised and speak in tongues.

Pastor Wippon believes baptism and prayer can cure AIDS and even bring the dead back to life.

Health workers have told the ABC revivalists visit hospitals and clinics telling HIV patients to throw away their medication.

In a case that shocked many, one of PNG's first openly HIV-positive women, Helen Samilo, fell prey to the revivalist message.

Even though she was working as an advocate for anti-retroviral treatment, Ms Samilo joined a revivalist church, stopped taking medication, and died in August last year.

"It's just the revival church that told her not to take her medication. They are responsible for her death," Ms Anton, a friend of Ms Samilo, said.

Pastor Wippon sees Ms Samilo's death differently.

"She has been healed spiritually. She died physically, naturally. But spiritually she's right with the Lord," he said.


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Rickay Eta

You have to be in it to find out the reality.Your view from the outside may be assumptions or hearsay. Who knows.

Divine healing is real. This is PNG and it is a Christian country. Cancer, TB, AIDS and addictions have been healed. Lives from bad to worse have been wonderfully changed and people are happy now.

A lot of hard evidences you will find if proper research is conducted in the Revival Fellowship.

There is no hard evidence that divine healing is real - KJ

Paul Littlewood

Helen Samilo was an unfortunate victim of revival centre propaganda. She died as a indirect result of having AIDS due to the fact that she failed to follow normal procedure for victims of that disease.

She probably thought that due to prayer she was cured of her problem but the centre would not have directly told her she was healed.

Many people claim to have been healed in the centres but in actual fact were never sick, they had psychosomatic sickness - an imagined sickness never diagnosed by any medical doctor. They are asked to testify of their non existent sickness and how God healed them.

This gives them merit in the church and some prestige and give those who are really sick some hope of healing, when it's really all lies.

Basically they are encouraged to only say they are healed after their doctor tells them to stop seeking treatment (which in terminal cases never happens) but in a recoverable case would happen anyway.

This is flaunted as healing in most cases but the medical intervention seem to be forgotten in the claim of healing.

Peter Kranz

Bernard - you are right. I would go further and say it is manslaughter as there is a fair chance Helen would have lived if the anti-retroviral treatment has been continued.

"Helen's Story" was on EMTV a few years ago. It was moving and inspiring

I think it's high time criminal charges were brought against such people as the revivalists. They are no less than murderers.

Bernard Yegiora

Does this practice and the response by the pastor be considered as a form of euthanasia? Just thinking aloud...

Bernard Yegiora

John I like your comment, a deadly trend indeed.

The pastor had the audacity to use religious idealism to justify Helen's death as reflected in his statement: "She has been healed spiritually. She died physically, naturally. But spiritually she's right with the Lord".

Each and every human being has the right to live.

Bomai D Witne

Churches should stick to praying over HIV & AIDS infected individuals, encourage and link the patients to health and other care givers within the locality.

Churches should not imprison HIV/AIDS infected individuals and feed them with prayer to the point where they see them die.

This is an outrageous crime against individuals who deserve better than a prayer. Hold the pastors accountable for the crime!

John Kaupa Kamasua

Helen Samilo was a great advocate for the fight againts HIV. She was well informed and quite well spoken and did awareness among the community.
But it is sad to know that she fell for the teachings of the revivalist.

Will be a dangerous trend if more people put blind faith into a teaching that has no scientific and practical evidence.

The Biblical healing that the Lord God refers to has a deeper and far more encompassing meaning.

Churches have a moral, ethical and God-given spiritual duty to preach the truth, not sugarcoating it to entice unsuspecting souls only for the numerical benefits.

Suzie M Maki

God heals. Medication also heals. Love and support from family and friends also heal. Most of all having faith in yourself heals better.

We put all this together God, medication, family and most of all you (sick person) you have a better chance of living longer.

Hence it is not wise to reject medication, something God has blessed us with.

Barbara Short

I was watching the news tonight and saw some PNG citizens wearing little clothing but full traditional head-dress and face paint at the AIDS Conference in Melbourne. They must have been freezing. Another was trying to speak to Bill Clinton. I doubt if he had much luck.

I'm glad the PNG people involved with HIV/AIDS education and treatment have sent representatives to this conference. I hope they will learn a lot to help PNG to combat this disease and control its spread.

Jimmy Awagl

Neither the revivalists nor the pastors shall proclaim healing. Believe in the Bible not the pastors for we are all subject to sin for we are earthly beings subject to evil deeds.

Revivalists use such religious philosophy to lure people and ill inform the victims to believe them. This is a cult philosophy and causes human lives to be lost.

Let us look at a vibrant, dynamic, spiritually orientated theology that will raise human faith to achieve God's grace and blessing.

Better thoughts works on a slow phase rather than too fast.

Peter Kranz

For those who believe in the miracle-working power of God - didn't God create us with intelligence and skill to apply science to find the right medicine and treatment?

After all Noah got busy and built an ark, he didn't just mope around praying for deliverance. So why the anti-science obsession?

To those who don't believe - is this any different from belief in sanguma (sorcery)? So call it for what it is.

Giorgio Licini

In my opinion this self-proclaimed "religious" approach, whether it is inspired by traditional beliefs or revivalist movements, could be criminal in nature when it induces people to abandon or forgo anti-retroviral therapy.

Kela Kapkora Sil Bolkin

So many People Living with HIV (PLHIV) who were placed on Antiretroviral Therapy (ART) have recovered from opportunistic infections and their viral load was low to almost being free of HIV. They returned to work and lived their normal lives.

Then, these revivals came along and made a mess in the psyche of the PLHIV. They told them to forego ART and join the revival churches and be completely healed of HIV.

The consequences were detrimental; others were infected by opportunistic infections again and confined themselves to the sick bed, others returned to ART but have developed resistance to first line drugs.

Sero-positive couples infected each other due to high viral loads when put off ART and others died.

The problem is that the revival pastors are ignorant and lack proper information on HIV and the PLHIV are easily made to believe that there is imminent healing from joining the revivals.

PNG has enough HIV service providers funded by GoPNG and development partners to seek counselling and medication. Don't fall for bullshit from half-baked pastors and sects.

Pastors are not all well educated; See this link:

Robin Lillicrapp

This is but one symptom of the search for hope midst a social system riven, as many others are, by varying levels of dysfunction and unsustainable expectations.

I guess the disease has confounded the ability of traditional healers so the search for a practical reality, a healing, is sought for in other directions.

The frantic optimism wrought by religous psychology is not limited to Revivalists. It is a phenomenon visible across a broad spectrum of "faiths."

As God has no grandchildren in the sense of every individual being personally accountable for receiving of His grace and mercy, the Biblical pattern of healing is also a much more objective vs subjective experience gained through personal encounter between the sick and the Saviour.

It is, I believe, problematic nigh unto dangerous when "faith" movements hijack what otherwise is a province of personal faith and relationship with The Living Lord.

The devil heals too.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)