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Religious fanaticism claims a victim
Latinamerica Press
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Woman burned in a bonfire by Evangelicals in a “purification rite.”

Vilma Trujillo García, 25 and mother of two, died on Feb. 28 from burns suffered after having been hurled into a bonfire to “heal her,” as she was “possessed.”

According to Esneyda del Socorro Orozco, deaconess of the Celestial Vision Church of the Assemblies of God, in the community of El Cortezal, a jurisdiction of the municipality of Rosita, in the North Caribbean Coast Autonomous Region, “by divine revelation a bonfire was to be made in the temple courtyard to heal the victim through fire,” what happened on Feb. 22.

Nicaraguan Police reported that the hands and feet of Trujillo were tied up, and then pastor Juan Gregorio Rocha Romero, who had condemned her for being “possessed by the devil,” and with the help from four other people, hurled her into the fire.

Trujillo was taken to Antonio Lenín Fonseca Hospital, in Managua, but did not survive. Luis Moreno, director of the hospital, reported that “she was given all the medical attention, equipment, medicine and logistics, but the third degree burns covering 80 percent of her body were irreversible.”

Trujillo´s husband, Reynaldo Peralta Rodríguez, who was away at the time, declared to the press that the victim “spent eight days inside the church and that the members gathered firewood in order to burn her, they tied her up near the fire and then they hurled her in naked.” Allegedly, Trujillo had been raped and the intention of Rocha was to cover up the sexual abuse.

Rocha and his accomplices — including church leader Orozco — were arrested, and accused of attempted murder. In his defense, the pastor testified that Trujillo had fallen in the fire “when the spirit of the devil left her body,” denying that he had pushed her in.

Inhuman act
Pablo Cuevas, legal counsel of the nongovernmental Permanent Commission of Human Rights, demanded from authorities to “prosecute the people that committed this criminal act to the fullest extent of the law and that this serves as a precedent that criminal acts like this one will not be tolerated.”

For the Autonomous Movement of Women (MAM), this case, besides being direct consequence of fanaticism and misogyny, is the product of the abandonment and neglect that far away communities in the country find themselves in.

“Independent of the religious component, nothing justifies an act of cruelty such as having burned that woman, to put her in a bonfire, and with the participation of other people in the religious manipulation that took place,” said Juanita Jiménez, leader of MAM, who considers that this is an attempt of femicide, “because all the intention is to cause damage.”

“The fact that [Trujillo] is said to have been raped, exposes the vulnerability under which the women are in their communities, in their homes,” she added.

According to the feminist organization Catholics for the Right to Decide, 49 femicides occurred in Nicaragua in 2016.

Rafael Arista, a representative in Nicaragua of the Assemblies of God — one of the largest and most conservative Pentecostal-Evangelical organizations in the world —, said that “we do not have a church organized in that place; what is present there is a fledgling work integrated by lay people,” adding that “to burn a person in the name of faith is not biblical, it is a barbarity. We reject this act and the competent authorities will be those who must apply justice in this inhuman act that we as Assemblies of God reject.”

The growth of Evangelical Churches in Nicaragua has accelerated in the past decades. According to the Pew Research Center, based in Washington DC, currently 40 percent of Nicaraguans declare themselves to be Protestant or Evangelical and 50 percent Catholic. —Latinamerica Press

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