U.S. government condemns persecution of Catholic Church in Nicaragua
Persecution of Christians, particularly the Catholic Church, is on the rise in Nicaragua, according to the United States’ Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), which says the government of President Daniel Ortega has accused local bishops of staging a coup to bring him down.
When protests against the government broke out in April 2018, the authorities used the military and armed militia, who fired into the crowds. The wounded often found refuge in the Catholic churches that opened their doors and became field hospitals for the wounded.
The bishops, at Ortega’s request, attempted to mediate a national dialogue between protesters and the government, but when the initiative failed, the prelates were blamed and accused of leading the opposition. As a result of civil conflict, hundreds were killed, thousands imprisoned and tens of thousands forced into exile.
“Many of the same religious freedom violations and abuses committed by the Ortega regime and its supporters against the Church and its followers in the wake of the 2018 protests continued into 2019,” says the State Department’s 2019 International Religious Freedom Report released earlier this week. “These abuses include the intimidation and harassment of worshippers and religious leaders and the violent targeting of churches”.
As the report notes, there are abundant examples of harassment against bishops, including Bishop Abelardo Mata Guevara, President of the Nicaraguan Bishops’ Conference, who indicated that he and seven priests in his diocese had received death threats.