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New damning report points finger at Nicaraguan government for increasing Christian persecution

by Tola Mbakwe

A Christian persecution watchdog has published a damning report blaming the Nicaraguan government of being responsible for numerous freedom of religion or belief violations.

The report, entitled Nicaragua: Civil society under siege by Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) covers a twelve-month period from November 2021 and highlights various ways in which the government has persecuted it's people.

Violations include denying people entry into the country, harassment, forcing religious groups to cancel activities, seizing property, threats, arbitrary detention and more.

The report also goes in-depth into about how Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega and his wife, Vice-president Rosario Murillo have enforced a crackdown on those who criticise their leadership.

Earlier this year, the government shut down six Catholic radio station because they were critical of their regime and put a bishop who led one of those stations under house arrest.

It was followed by policing banning a Catholic procession and pilgrimage in the capital of Managua and twelve Catholic priests being detained or put under house arrest.

Meanwhile, the government expelled a group of nuns from the country and stopped a number of faith leaders with Nicaraguan citizenship from boarding return flights home.

One Nicaraguan human rights defender told CSW: “Ortega is imprisoning all religious [leaders] and any church that raises its voice in favour of the people and against the dictatorship. He wants to give countries abroad the impression that everything is in order and that there is no problem in Nicaragua. Internally, he oppresses the vast majority of the people who live without information due to poverty.

“Very few have access to social networks because they cannot cover the costs since the little that is earned daily is [dedicated] to the survival of their family. The dictatorship dominates the radio and television media, the private cable networks. It has eliminated religious channels and radio stations little by little. It has done the same thing with private radio stations in order that what is really happening in the country goes uncovered. All of this, the socio-political and economic situation, has led to extreme poverty and the great departure of thousands of Nicaraguans into exile.”

Roman Catholic and Protestant religious leaders told CSW that they are consistently being watched. They claim that the government has people go under cover and attend their churches in order to monitor sermons and prayers.

“Many reported receiving visits from government agents, some in uniform and others in civilian clothes, who threatened them with violence or imprisonment because of something they had said during a religious service, in one case a simple call to ‘pray for the situation in Nicaragua’ was interpreted as critical of the government,” CSW said.

CSW has urged for international community to come up with ways to hold the Nicaraguan officials and parliamentary groups accountable for the government’s violations. The charity suggested introducing visa bans for them.

Nicaragua is on the United States’ list of Countries of Particular Concern, and has garnered a lot of criticism from the European Union.

Kiri Kankhwende, public affairs team leader at CSW urged Christians to be praying for the country.

“Please pray most urgently for prisoners. There are so many people in prison… human rights defenders, pastors, their families, please pray for their release. Please pray for them in prison where the conditions are not easy.

“And please pray for international efforts to start to bear fruit, so that Nicaraguans can be free to follow their faith. At the moment we're hearing that people can't even hang crosses and crucifixes. It's very, very grave.”

Listen to Premier’s interview with Kiri Kankhwende here:

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