A Flying Exorcism for a Violence-Plagued City

By Mark A. Kellner
Posted July 15, 2019

Just a year ago, the city of Buenaventura, on the Pacific Ocean coast of Colombia in South America, was attracting the kind of attention any Chamber of Commerce would sell its grandmothers to receive:

The New York Times lauded it as a great tourism spot recovering from years of drug-related violence. While acknowledging some problems, the article touted this city of 400,000 as a great place to visit, soak up the local culture, and dine on world-ranked cuisine.

Today, however, Buenaventura—whose name is Spanish for “good luck”—isn’t very lucky, to hear Monsignor Rubén Darío Jaramillo Montoya, the local Roman Catholic bishop, tell it.

According to Britain’s Guardian newspaper, the cleric told a local radio station of plans to fly over the city in a helicopter and sprinkle “holy water” in an effort to end a rising tide of violence, which included the recent torture and killing of a 10-year-old girl.

“We Have to Drive the Devil Out!”

Montoya said, “We have to drive the devil out of Buenaventura, to see if we can restore the peace and tranquility that our city has lost due to so many crimes, acts of corruption and with so much evil and drug trafficking that invades our port.”

He added, “We want to go around the whole of Buenaventura, from the air, and pour holy water on to it to see if we exorcise and get out all those demons that are destroying our port, so that God’s blessing comes and gets rid of all the wickedness that is in our streets.”

The British newspaper reported that “although exorcisms are usually carried out on individuals, in 1890 Pope Leo XIII added a prayer, ‘Exorcism against Satan and the Fallen Angels,’ for resolving demonic infestation.”

Colombia’s military is also supporting the project by supplying a helicopter, and pilot, to fly the bishop over the city for the ritual.

News of the planned “helicopter exorcism” made headlines around the world. Even in a skeptical, secular age, there is something noble-sounding, at least, about someone trying to do something during a tsunami of violence and murder. If the city is living in fear, then it’s understandable that a spiritual solution would be sought.

There’s also little doubt that there likely are dark forces at work in the city, or more specifically within people committing the mayhem that plagues Buenaventura. No normal person would deem a 10-year-old as a fitting subject for extreme cruelty and death, but someone did.

Mass Exorcism or Citywide Revival?

Yet the question remains whether or not this flying ritual is the way God would want people to combat an epidemic of crime and violence—or, for that matter, any pestilence plaguing an area. The Bible speaks of Jesus, and His disciples in several instances, casting out demons from individuals, but there are no accounts of a city being so treated en masse.

Instead, the method God used to change the hearts and minds of one city was to send a single individual to its gates with a dire proclamation: “Yet 40 days and [your city] shall be overthrown!”

The city was Nineveh, and the individual was Jonah. You can read his exact words in Jonah 3:4. But it’s also true that Jonah didn’t accept God’s directive to go to this city and preach to its people. Indeed, the theme of the book is how the prophet ran away from God’s call and then repented, albeit while in the belly of a “great fish.” After three days and nights being bleached by that beast’s intestinal fluids, and perhaps dripping seaweed when spat up on the land, a man whose countenance was likely rather shocking walked into town and said, “Repent.”

If a bleached-and-belched Jonah appeared on your doorstep, you might want to hear him out too.

The other part of the story is what happened to this city after Jonah delivered his solemn warning. There was no protest, no reports that the good folk in Nineveh were “triggered” by the message. Instead, everyone, from the king on down, repented before God. And the Lord heard their prayers and spared the city.

This isn’t to suggest that someone needs to walk up on the shores of Buenaventura in Colombia and preach to the residents. But perhaps a more organized effort to reach everyone in that town with God’s message of hope and salvation might do a great deal to change hearts and attitudes there. It’s worth some thought.

What does the Bible say about “Defeating Demons, Devils, and Evil Spirits”? Pastor Doug Batchelor explores this topic worth your attention. He notes that believers have a “divine mandate” to cast out demons (Mark 16:17) and then explains what to do and how to do it.

When it comes to the question of revival—which is what delivered Nineveh from certain destruction and which could also change Buenaventura—the booklet “Twelve Steps to Revival” begins with the most important element: the individual believer. Once we are each revived and “on fire” for the Lord, amazing things can happen in any city, even our own!

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