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Nicaragua: Christians attacked, detained and killed as “enemies of the regime”

Nicaragua is 50% Roman Catholic and 33% evangelical. Whether Catholic or evangelical, Christians are being targeted by the regime of Marxist strongman Daniel Ortega as “coup plotters” and “enemies of the regime.” One evangelical pastor notes: “In fact, no citizen or religious denomination is safe from attack now that paramilitary groups have publicly threatened to ‘blow the head off anyone protesting against the president.” The Order laments this situation and prays that it not escalate, and that the Nicaraguan regime would stop its repressive measures against its Christian critics.

“Nicaragua: Christians attacked, detained and killed as ‘enemies of the regime,’” World Watch Monitor, September 6, 2018:

…On 23 August, the bodies of three men were found in Mozonte, 171 kms north of the capital Managua. Police said the men were all members of a gang and the violence was crime-related, reported national news site 100Noticias.

However, ABC local News identified one of the men as pastor Justo Emilio Rodiguez Moncada (35) of the evangelical Camino de Santidad church in Managua. The men were found with hands and feet tied and bullets in their head, making it look like an execution. Relatives say that the authorities only try to cover up the atrocities of the regime.

Rights groups have highlighted the “excessive use of force by the security forces of the State” and armed third persons and that the government used a “systematic ‘shoot-to-kill policy” in its crackdown.

Other forms of repression include arbitrary detentions, assassinations and even the monitoring of religious activities by infiltrators,” according to Rossana Ramirez, an analyst with Open Doors’ World Watch Research unit.

Economic pressure is applied too, Ramirez said. On 14 August the daily newspaper La Prensa reported that the President Ortega had ordered a 42% cut in funding for Catholic and Protestant church institutions. This reduction in the state budget will affect 173 religious institutions, with the Archdiocese of Managua – one of the main opponents of the regime – the most affected, according to the analyst.

A week later the legal advisor of the Episcopal Conference of Nicaragua, Carlos Cárdenas, was forcefully taken from his home on the outskirts of Managua by a group of hooded men while they threatened to kill his 10-year-old daughter, reported Periodistadigital.

he Episcopal Conference has been acting as a mediator in the national dialogue to end the conflict between the government of President Ortega and the opposition. However, talks were suspended in June because of a lack of progress.

Cárdenas was arrested with five other men on charges of “committing acts of terrorism in the context of the protests against the Government”, according to the news site.

‘Coup plotters’

While Church leaders have been trying to broker peace, the Church in Nicaragua has also criticised the government, denouncing its totalitarianism, corruption and the crimes it is committing against humanity, said Ramirez.

And “Catholic churches have been playing an important role in the protests, providing shelter and medical help, as well as using church bells to warn of any impending attacks by paramilitary groups and government supporters”, she said.

That is why “the government has labelled Christian leaders ‘coup plotters’ and ‘enemies of the regime’… and why churches, church leaders and even bishops have been targeted as though they were terrorists,” she explained.

In June the headquarters of the Diocese of Matagalpa in central Nicaragua was attacked by a group armed with machetes.

A few weeks later, three Catholic Church leaders were physically and verbally assaulted at the Basilica of San Sebastian in Diriamba, 41 kms west of Managua, when they visited victims of violence suffered at the hands of the police, paramilitary forces and government supporters.

While the Catholic Church tried to resolve the political crisis, evangelicals generally took a different approach, an evangelical pastor from the city of Masaya, 31 kms southeast of Managua, told CBN News. “Many evangelical churches were reluctant to take on such a prominent political role and instead prayed and fasted behind the scenes. Churches also distributed food, water and counselled families who were affected by the violence,” he said.

But, according to Ramirez, they and other religious minorities have been threatened too. “In fact, no citizen or religious denomination is safe from attack now that paramilitary groups have publicly threatened to ‘blow the head off anyone protesting against the president,” she said.

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