Nicaragua: the country most affected by religious persecution in Latin America

THE CATHOLIC CHURCH OF NICARAGUA HAS SUFFERED MORE THAN 190 ATTACKS AND DESCREATIONS IN LESS THAN FOUR YEARS, including a fire in the Cathedral of Managua, as well as the persecution of clergy by the regime of President Daniel Ortega. These are the findings of a research paper obtained Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).

The report, titled “Nicaragua: Persecuted Church? (2018-2022)” and written by Martha Patricia Molina Montenegro, part of the Anticorruption and Transparency Observatory, was published in May and therefore does not cover the numerous attacks that took place in June, as the persecution of Bishop Rolando Alvarez Lagos of the Diocese of Matagalpa, the closure of Catholic television channels or the expulsion of the Missionaries of Charity founded by Mother Teresa.

The study believes that the figures it presents are lower than the actual number of attacks. “Cases have been found where priests were so tired of thefts and desecrations that they only filed charges for the last of them. Others have opted for silence, as they no longer believe in the justice system,” the study read.

Figures show that 37% of reported hostilities target priests, bishops, members of religious congregations, seminarians and lay people, and include cases of exile, while 19% are desecrations of places of worship and liturgical objects. There was also a high number (17%) of assaults, destruction, arson, blocking of basic services and invasion of private property, among others.

July 31, 2020 attack on the Cathedral of Managua

The most recent case – not recorded in the report – is the Nicaraguan government’s announcement of the forced closure of 101 non-governmental organizations (NGOs), including the Association of Missionaries of Charity of Mother Teresa of Calcutta. These nuns are dedicated to serving the poorest of the poor and run a home for the elderly, a crèche for the children of destitute mothers, and a shelter for abandoned and abused children.

The list also includes five other Catholic institutions. If the proposal is approved by the National Assembly, the number of NGOs declared illegal by the Ortega government will increase to 758.

Meanwhile, on June 28, the television broadcaster Telecable withdrew from its network the TV channels Merced and Canal San José, operated respectively by the dioceses of Matagalpa and Estelí. Church-run Channel 51 had already been taken off the air on May 31.

According to the report, the reasons for this hostility on the part of the Nicaraguan government are to be found in the support of the Catholic Church to the students during the peaceful demonstrations against corruption and nepotism in the country, which took place from April. 2018. Churches opened their doors, providing spaces for dialogue and prayer meetings, but also helping the injured and consoling the families of murdered or kidnapped citizens.

“Prior to April 2018, the Church was subject to sporadic abuse. After this date the hostility increased in number and degree. The offensive language used by the presidential couple against the Catholic hierarchy has become clearer and more common, and the actions of certain public institutions against the charitable work of the Church have also increased,” the report states.

This serious situation of persecution of the Catholic Church had already been highlighted by the ACN in its report Religious Freedom in the World 2021 Report.

—Maria Lozano

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