Malaysian police have arrested the family members of a three-year-old girl who was allegedly killed in an exorcism “ritual.” Seven family members including the child’s parents, grandmother, uncle, aunt and two teenage cousins as well as the family’s Indonesian maid were found piled on top of the toddler, who was face down, under a blanket. She had died — one can only think, in terror and after suffering — from suffocation, police said.
The father’s brother reportedly tipped police in the northern town of Bukit Mertajam in Malaysia.
The ritual reportedly lasted for several hours. Local police chief Azman Abdul Lah said that police found the family members chanting and that they “believe they were involved in an exorcism ritual to drive away evil spirits” that had possessed the child.
The girl’s family are ethnic Chinese and, while recent decades have seen the the practice of occult rituals dissipate, beliefs in the supernatural persist among the country’s main Malay, Chinese and Indian ethnic communities. The Associated Press says that, in 2010, two Malaysian cousins were sentenced to ten years in prison for killing the parents of one of them in a “spiritual cleansing ritual,” in which the couple was slain and then beaten with brooms and motorcycle helmets.
Exorcism rituals are not only part of folk traditions Malaysia. In a 1981 article in the Journal of Anthropological Research, S. E. Ackerman, an anthropologist at the University of Malaya in Kuala Lumput, notes that an “emphasis on discourse about spiritual possession and exorcism is a striking feature of Catholic Pentecostalism” in Malaysia. Worship in the Catholic church in the country can contain the “adoption of ecstatic behaviors” including glossalalia (speaking in tongues), spiritual healing and, yes, exorcism.
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