Woman Burned to Death During Nicaraguan Exorcism


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St. Francis Borgia (1510-72) Helping a Dying Impenitent, 1795 (oil on canvas)

Jack Franklin, Writer

A 25-year-old woman died Tuesday after being thrown into a fire during an “exorcism” in remote Nicaragua. Evangelical pastor Juan Gregorio Rocha Romero of the Church of the Assembly of God in the northeastern village of El Cortezal claims Vilma Trujillo, 25, was possessed by a demon. The police from the impoverished mining township of Rosita, about 300 miles northeast of Managua, arrested Pastor Romero; Esneyda del Socorro, a church leader; and three other men who were involved with last week’s attack. Reynaldo Peralta Rodriguez, the victim’s husband, said the mother of two of two was abducted from her home and brought to the church after allegedly trying to attack people with a machete. Other theories from locals as to why she was attacked include that she was mentally ill and that she had committed adultery. However, none of the claims have been confirmed by the Nicaraguan detectives. In a statement to the local police, church leader Orozco said, “God has made me a revelation, that they should make a campfire in the courtyard of the church and that a group of brothers should take the sick woman and tie her up near the fire and perform a prayer so that the demon will leave the body of the sick and go into the fire.” Romero claims that he is innocent, for he blames the victim for her own death. “She hung up and fell into the fire because she knew that she was demon possessed,” Romero said. “And when we were praying, we looked at her and she was on fire.”

Herenia Amaya, a women’s rights advocate told Univisión, “Trujillo Garcia presented ‘mental health problems,’ prompting the pastor and congregation to take her to the church. Pastors and religious leaders dominate the community with apocalyptic ideologies that the devil come.” Pablo Cuevas, a spokesman for Nicaragua’s Human Rights commission said, “It is incredible that these things can happen today, there has to be a review by the authorities tinto all the different denomination and religions. We can’t have things like this happening. Juanita Jimenez of the Autonomous Women’s Movement (MAM) says this case was “an example of fanaticism and misogyny.” Jimizen said, “Apart from the religious aspect, nothing justifies an act that is as cruel as burning a woman, putting her on a fire with the help of other people who you have used religion to manipulate.”

“My wife was no demonised. What they did to her was witchcraft. It’s unforgivable what they did to us. They killed my wife, the mother of my two little ones,” said Reynaldo Peralta Rodriguez, the victim’s husband. “Now what am I going to tell them?”