Managua, Nicaragua, Aug 20, 2018 / 23:46 pm
Americans need to pray for peace in Nicaragua as the country faces continuing political tensions, violence and attacks on churches, said the head of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace.
“We mourn the deaths of hundreds of Nicaraguans, many in the prime of their youth, and are horrified at reports of desecrations of churches throughout the country,” Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio said in an Aug. 17 statement.
“It is precisely the Nicaraguan people’s intense faith that, despite the ongoing difficulties, fills me with great optimism,” he added. “Such a faith moves hearts to work for reconciliation in the fruitful spirit of Christian charity. I exhort the Church in the United States to join her Nicaraguan brothers and sisters in prayer for peace and justice in Nicaragua.”
Protests against president Daniel Ortega began April 18, after Ortega announced social security and pension reforms. The proposals were soon abandoned due to the strong outcry against them, but protests of Ortega’s government grew after security forces killed over 40 demonstrators. More than 300 people have died in the conflicts, according to local human rights groups. Anti-government protesters have faced attacks by combined groups of regular police, riot police, paramilitaries and vigilantes who back Ortega.
The country’s bishops have mediated on-again, off-again peace talks between the government and opposition groups. At the same time, churches have been attacked. Bishops and priests across the country have worked to separate protesters and security forces, and have been threatened and shot.
July 19 marked the 39th anniversary of the ouster of the Somoza dictatorship by the Sandinista National Liberation Front, in which Ortega was a leader. As junta leader and then president, he opposed U.S.-backed right-wing counterrevolutionaries in the 1980s.
At a pro-government celebration July 20, Ortega told thousands of supporters that the Nicaraguan bishops are attempting a coup. His basis for the claim was their proposal to hold early presidential elections.
In the wake of the accusations, at least eight Catholic churches have been desecrated.