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mercredi 24 décembre 2014

The pyres of Faaite (1)

When heaven becomes hell

On 2 September 1987 Faaite Atoll (Tuamotus Archipelago) makes history: men burned six of their fellow citizens for religious reasons.

On 4 September 1987, the world discovered the existence of the tiny Faaite atoll in the Tuamotus Archipelago, in French Polynesia.

This discovery comes after the revelation of a drama that made headlines in all major international media and is called "The pyres of Faaite".

Map of Faaite Atoll, Tuamotu Archipelago
What's happened, on this small and ignored atoll of the South Pacific?

What happened at Faaite on 4 September 1987
The raw facts as reported by the press of the time are: Thursday, September 3 at the end of the afternoon, the schooner (local cargo ship) supposed refuel the atoll cann't reach the only radio station the island. Therefore, it's impossible to enter the lagoon and it's totally abnormal. The captain then immediately notifies the gendarmerie of Anaa.

Very worried about this situation, the gendarmes of Papeete, warned by their colleagues of Anaa, send a helicopter. It is landing on the motu of the Hitianau village, a few hundred meters from the church, the village center, on Friday early morning.

On the church square, they discover three women tied up, doused with gasoline. They are prisoners of tire stacks of construction machinery.

Relying on the first depositions, the gendarmes dig a large hole, plugged recently and   they discover six charred bodies.

The crime scene, the next day… (Copyright: National Gendarmerie)
Those are for four men and two women. Among them, a couple and the first deputy mayor delegate of the atoll. He was the first to be sacrificed and the couple at last.

Then the on-site investigation begins. It's conducted by the national gendarmerie. Then it's to Papeete's prosecutor to do his job. After a long and very painful trial, twenty convictions will be pronounced ranging from 4 years suspended sentence to 14 years' imprisonment for one who was considered the conductor of this macabre case.

Why they burned witches at Faaite?
At the time of the tragedy, the delegate mayor of the island is moving in Papeete; neither the priest, who lives in Anaa is on the island;  security of the atoll is provided by the mutoi (municipal policeman), himself a native of the village; no phone and there is only one  BLU set (marine radio) to communicate with the outside.

In the Tahitian press: the time of the trial...
 Less than three weeks ago, three women, active members of the "charismatic renewal" of Tahiti, missioned by the bishop of the time, arrived in Faaite. They are supposed to spend a week on the atoll. They stay 15 days full.

All testimonies are consistent on this point:  they are these women who instilled  ideas of repentance and extreme punishment in the minds of some members of the community. They also are speaking of witch hunt. They finally had formed a group of men, particularly exalted by their speech. And they charge them to continue their mission at the time of their departure. What they do beyond all reason.

Protected by the whole Catholic Church in Polynesia, especially by the bishop, so that the latter will personally vouch for their innocence to the police, they don't appear anywhere. They are not even heard as witnesses on the grounds that they were not on the atoll at the time of the offenses.

The court ruled by denouncing a temporary collective madness based on a mystic delirium.

What's left unsaid about the case of the "pyres of Faaite"
Many mysteries are surrounding this sinister affair. One thing is certain: none of those who lived through those days of horror has agreed to testify publicly to date. By cons, almost all of them victims as guilty today live Faaite, as if nothing had happened.

Yet other theories as that used by justice are raised.

First and foremost, the responsibility of the three women of the "charismatic renewal" is totally ignored during the investigation and trial. These ones are strangely protected by the Catholic Church.

Another track, less credible and difficult to verify, highlights a dark motive  related to land ownership.

Another still evokes a deep malaise of some young men of the atoll that would have found an outlet for boredom…

Bruno Saura's book whose cover is invisible on Google ...
In 1990, the anthropologist Bruno Saura published a book on the subject: "The pyres of Faaite". At the time the work is brought into the bookstores, the trial was completed in less than a year. We can therefore consider that it was written while hot. Recoilless. Yet even then, Bruno Saura raises such questions.

Recently, the "pyres of Faaite" regained media honors. Thus, the local TV station TNTV (Tahiti Nui Television) devoted them a 52-minute documentary that has been a lot of talk about in Polynesia. Especially since it raises some of these outlined above.

In fact, it only adds to the doubts already hanging over this issue.

New St. Mary Magdalene's church of Faaite, inaugurated in July 2009
Will you know one day the truth about what happened on the atoll of Faaite in September 1987?

An article of Julien Gué
Translated from French by Monak

...discover the incredible testimony of a survivor of the pyres of Faaite...

Copyright Julien Gué. Ask for the author’s agreement before any reproduction of the text or the images on Internet or traditional press.

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