BUENAVENTURA, Colombia (ChurchMilitant.com) - A Colombian bishop intends to shower the most violent city in his country with holy water from a helicopter to exorcise the evil spirits causing havoc.
The bishop of Buenaventura, Colombia, Rubén Darío Jaramillo Montoya, 52, plans to borrow a navy helicopter on July 14 to sprinkle with holy water the port city of Buenaventura in his diocese.
"We want to go around the whole of Buenaventura from the air and pour holy water onto it," Montoya recently said to a local radio station.
"So that God's blessing comes and gets rid of all the wickedness that is in our streets," he added.
Paramilitary gangs, which locals refer to collectively as "los malos," have been ravaging the port city of Buenaventura for years. The guerrillas extort businesses, kidnap, terrorize and murder people in the area, responding to resistance with gruesome violence that includes dismembering dissenters alive.
The remains of mutilated victims sometimes wash up on the shore.
The city was labeled the most violent one in Colombia in 2014, accounting for many thousands of families being displaced, according to a 2014 Human Rights Watch report.
In 2014, residents worked with international human rights groups to increase police presence, construct better houses and establish a "humanitarian zone" in Puente Nayero, a small sub-neighborhood where two warring groups — Urabeños and La Empresa — once wreaked havoc.
In addition to Puente Nayero being transformed into a "territory of peace in the middle of conflict" in 2014, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) signed a peace treaty with the government in 2016 and Buenaventura joined UNESCO's Creative Cities Network in 2017.
Local juice seller Suleyma Angelo Yepes told The Guardian in October that the situation was terrible prior to Puente Nayero being transformed into a humanitarian zone.
"You couldn't go out at night, you couldn't sleep, because there might be shooting. I was too afraid to let the children go to school," she said.
Now, however, "I can fall asleep and nothing will happen, thank God," said Yepes.
Many of the 400,000 residents of Buenaventura say the situation has improved; however, though the violence might have abated some, it has not entirely ceased.
The numbers of murders are disputed, but there is no doubt they still occur. Different gangs have come and gone, but there are still active ones that continue to wreak havoc.
Montoya, who became the local ordinary of Buenaventura in 2017, claims that 51 murders have already occurred in 2019, which he says is "20 more than in the same period last year."
"In Buenaventura, we have to get rid of the devil to see if we can return the tranquility that the city has lost with so many crimes, acts of corruption and so much evil and drug trafficking," said Montoya.
"It will be a great public demonstration for the entire community, where we will pour holy water to see if so many bad things end and the devil goes out of here," he added.
The sprinkling will take place on July 14, the feast day of St. Bonaventure, the patron of the diocese.
Saint Bonaventure, a Doctor of the Church, was a Franciscan, a cardinal and a bishop who likewise had to contend with evil in his day.
In his "Psalter of the Blessed Virgin Mary," Bonaventure asks the Blessed Virgin Mary for assistance in the fight against the evil spirit: "Against me he hath drawn his bow: and in his craftiness he hath laid snares for me. Restrain his evil power: and powerfully crush his craft."