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Catholic church leaders in Nicaragua speak up in support of bishop under house arrest for criticising the government

by Alex Collett

Catholic bishops in Nicaragua have expressed their 'closeness' to Fr Rolando José Álvarez, a bishop who has been under house arrest since 4th August for criticising the government. 

Earlier this month, Nicaraguan authorities decided to raid and shut down six Catholic radio stations unexpectedly, arguing the stations did not have the right broadcasting permits. 

Fr Rolando - who served as the radio's coordinator - condemned the government's decision and was then confined to his residency, accused of "acts of hatred" against authorities. 

Now Nicaragua's Catholic bishops have said their hearts have been touched by the plight of Fr Rolando, saying the Church "proclaims the Gospel of peace" and, in this light, is always open to collaboration with national and international authorities.

Anna Lee Stangl, head of advocacy at Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) told Premier Christian News church leaders in Latin America have also come out in support of Fr Rolando. 

"There have been declaration after declaration from bishop's conferences and other countries around there. So there's very, very strong support in and outside of the country. It's very clear that the government is in the wrong. 

"What's worrying us is that it's unclear what the endgame is. They've now been stationed there since its last week, and it's not clear if they're planning to arrest him or her if they're trying to do something else but the government I think now is very aware that it is being watched very carefully from around the world." 

In recent months, Nicaraguan authorities have closed more than 1,000 non-governmental groups.

Christians are being urged to pray for "wisdom and discernment" for Fr Roland, in knowing how to react to any subsequent developments and for "courage for all those in Nicaragua who want to see change and democratic values to respected and upheld". 

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