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 Thursday, 9 January, 2003, 17:30 GMT
Greenland caught up in 'exorcism' row
Greenland's capital, Nuuk
A healer was called to "cleanse" offices in Nuuk
A row over a top Greenland civil servant who used an Inuit healer to chase away evil spirits in government offices is putting the newly elected coalition government under strain.

Jens Lyberth, the home rule government's newly appointed manager, called his personal healer to "drive away the negative energy" from the government's offices in Nuuk, Greenland's capital, in what has become known as the "exorcism" case.

I contributed to restoring the respect for the special Greenland spirit that has been suppressed for too long

Inuit healer Maannguaq Berthelsen
The incident has prompted local indignation and is said to have led staff to leave the home-rule government, media reports say.

Talks are to be held between the coalition's two parties, the Inuit Brotherhood and Siumut, to resolve the issue.

Mr Lyberth has promised that he will stop the "healing", but also stated that he does not regret his conduct.

"When you move into new premises, it's normal to air the room and give the walls some fresh paint," the civil servant, who belongs to Siumut, said.

Maannguaq Berthelsen, the healer, said she used her abilities for about 90 minutes in late December, but was not inside while working her magic.

She told Greenland Radio that she "contributed to restoring the respect for the special Greenland spirit that has been suppressed for too long".

Shortly after taking the job, Mr Lyberth also urged nearly 600 civil servants to use similar spiritual healing methods in an attempt to promote better harmony between Greenlanders and Danes.

Greenland has a local parliament and government that runs most of its affairs, but Denmark handles its foreign and defence policies.

Resignation calls

Several Greenland officials disapproved of Mr Lyberth's decision, including Finance Minister Josef Motzfeldt, who called for his dismissal.

"The internal pressure within his party, pressure from ordinary people, pressure from organisations and pressure from our side are strong enough that the prospect is that he won't be in place for very long," Mr Motzfeldt says.

Opposition leader Per Berthelsen, who is not related to the healer, described her actions as "witch-doctoring and other mumbo-jumbo".

Mr Moztfeldt, who is also leader of the Inuit Brotherhood, has called for urgent coalition talks to be held.

Most Greenlanders belong to Denmark's Lutheran church, but some ancient Inuit traditions are practiced during community gatherings and parties where dancers use masks and face painting to focus on contemporary problems.

See also:

09 Nov 01 | From Our Own Correspondent
19 Dec 02 | Europe
30 May 02 | Country profiles
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