By Linda Bordoni
The Bishops of Nicaragua are meeting to decide whether to continue mediating the National Dialogue Process amid a worsening political and social crisis.
In a dramatic statement on Sunday, a top Nicaraguan Cardinal said the Catholic Church in his country is being persecuted by the regime of President Daniel Ortega.
Cardinal Leopoldo Brenes Solorzano, President of the Nicaraguan Bishops’ Conference and of the Commission for National Dialogue, said that the Church is currently being persecuted in different parts of the world, including Nicaragua.
His condemnation came on the day in which the entire Latin American continent united to pray for peace in Nicaragua where political unrest and violence has killed over 360 people since mid-April and led to the detention of scores more.
Bishops deciding whether to continue mediating
Noting that “the Church has always suffered persecution” and therefore “We are no strangers" to this fact, Brenes said that he and his fellow bishops are currently debating whether to continue to participate in the National Dialogue Process, notwithstanding the country’s President’s statements accusing the bishops of behaving like “coup plotters”.
Since what began as peaceful rallies led by students to oppose punishing social welfare reforms spiraled into full blown clashes with paramiiltary and police forces shooting live ammunition, there have been at least seven episodes of desecration in churches and several attacks on bishops and church representatives.
The attacks against the Catholic Church started after the episcopate asked Ortega to anticipate elections scheduled for 2021 to March 2019 to put an end to the social and political crisis.
Pope’s appeal for Nicaragua
Pope Francis expressed his preoccupation for the situation in the country saying he joins the country's bishops in their concerns. Speaking after the Angelus Prayer on 3 June, the Pope called for an end to all violence and prayed for the victims and their families.
The Church, he said, is always in favor of dialogue but “it requires active engagement in respect for freedom and, above all, life.”
Prisons places of torture
The Nicaraguan Association for Human Rights meanwhile has accused supporters of the Nicaraguan government of being “insensitive to pain”.
It claims that the mothers of imprisoned protesters in the Jail of El Chipote in Managua are being intimidated while the prisoners themselves are tortured.
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has also denounced “murders, extrajudicial killings, mistreatment, torture and arbitrary detention perpetrated against the majority of the country's young population”. The Nicaraguan government rejects the charges.
The protests against Ortega and his wife, Vice-President Rosario Murillo, began on 18 April because of the failure of the social security reforms and have become a call for the resignation of the President, after eleven years of power, on charges of abuse and corruption.