Repression, kidnappings, intimidation. The Catholic Church under siege. But ‘the hearts of the people resist’. We received this letter from a religious sister who writes under a pseudonym for security reasons.
It is not easy to nourish hope in Nicaragua. Blow after blow, it seems that the intention of President Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo is to make us reckless and deranged like them. If the mission of the Servant of Yahweh announced in Isaiah is not to quench the flickering flame nor to break the crushed reed, that of the regime is the absolute opposite: not only to quench the flame but to crush the candle itself, not just to break the crushed reed but to annihilate it, destroy it, denationalize it, accuse it of treason and confiscate the field in which it dared to grow.
It is not easy to imagine the future of Nicaragua. In the taxis, in the markets, in the barrios and even within the Sandinista Front, the talk is always the same: how long will it last? How much longer will they go on? When will it all end? And the answers – mostly speculative – challenge the Christian principles contained in the fifth commandment, citing possible exceptions. But in the end, almost everyone agrees: it has to be peaceful; we don’t want another war.
It is no joke to breathe in Nicaragua, to speak in Nicaragua, to live in Nicaragua. The confiscation of the Jesuit Catholic University by the government was also an assault on hope as one of the last spaces of freedom. The expulsion of the Jesuits from their home and the annulment of their legal status is also an expression of the vulnerability in which all of us who have engaged in the civic struggle in defence of human rights live, and also of the regime’s desire to punish us, to subject us to contempt, to expose ourselves to humiliation so as not to forget its slogan: “Even if they cry in anger, we are in charge here and we are not going away. At least, not in a good way.”
But in this same country where Church members have been kidnapped, silenced, slandered, and persecuted, on August 10th, during the traditional ‘Festival of Saint Dominic’, many, many people were heard courageously shouting “Long live Free Nicaragua”, “Long live the Catholic Church” amidst the shouting and dancing, just half a meter away from the police fence that ‘escorted’ the image of Saint Dominic.
And when the image stopped in front of the stage of the mayor of Managua Reyna Rueda and applause was asked for the National Police, many, many people expressed their rejection and repudiation with whistles and shouts. What does all this mean? What message are devotees sending in the face of this manipulation of religious symbols by the regime? What does it tell us about peaceful resistance?
In this same country where Cardinal Leopoldo Brenes remains silent on the increasingly numerous and arbitrary decisions of the government to prevent priests, nuns and relatives of political prisoners from entering the country, but calls a jubilee for the anniversary of his priestly ordination – with plenary indulgence included – as if there was much to rejoice about, it so happened that on a bus in Managua an evangelical pastor was preaching the importance of fasting and prayer. This sermon would have gone unnoticed if he had not also said that it is fasting and prayer that will help defeat the evil and satanic force that is Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo, who were able to touch a holy and courageous man like Monsignor Rolando Álvarez, until imprisoning him unjustly and for whom we should all pray daily. And on that bus, at that time, those who were there said with a strong and decisive voice: “Amen”. What happened to that elderly and bold shepherd? What did those who listened to him think that morning? Is religious force still a force of resistance to injustice, outrage, and desperation in Nicaragua?
In this very country where there is a police force that obeys orders to remove unarmed Jesuits from their homes at gunpoint and where young people, university students and professionals continue to be kidnapped and imprisoned for the simple crime of believing and wanting a different Nicaragua. In this very country, a small group of young people from a public school receive an assignment from a language teacher and Sandinista Front sympathizer: to produce a newspaper with news on the country.
A ridiculous task in a country that has closed and confiscated more than 30 media outlets and killed, expelled, and imprisoned journalists. Young people come to class with their completed projects. The name of the newspaper? La Prensa. First page? The regime confiscates the Universidad Central Americana with a court order without evidence. The teacher’s response: “I don’t want news against the government”. The young people’s response: “What you don’t want is the truth”. And when they told the story, they said, “He didn’t take our work. But he saw it. He had to see it. You know we’re not stupid”. How much influence did the Christian formation received in their parishes have? What dreams would these young people be capable of in a free Nicaragua?
In this country of Nicaragua, its beloved León Pinita Gurdián, grandmother of Tamara Dávila, a political prisoner, was buried. She was a woman committed to the Gospel, a faithful follower of Jesus and always ready to risk all for justice and freedom. The regime seized her passport thus preventing her from seeking treatment for the cancer she suffered from and from seeing her children and grandchildren, some of whom were expelled and denationalized and, so, unable to enter the country. In this country, voices have been heard that have dared to believe and sing: Who said all is lost?
Blow after blow they want to drive us mad and make us abandon hope. Blow after blow Daniel Ortega, Rosario Murillo and those who earn money and power through them, want to break the faith of the people, render ineffective their Christian commitment, or at least deprive them of their prophetic role. Blow after blow they want to convince us that this country belongs to them.
And perhaps it is true that for now everything they have stolen belongs to them: the UCA and the countless church properties, the religious congregations, the Catholic schools, the non-governmental organizations. But they don’t have people’s hearts. Little by little they want to extinguish the light of hope. They are capable of anything, blow after blow but we will resist, despite everything. (Photo: VOA) – (Guadalupe Romero)