Join our Lenten Campaign 2024.
A Nicaraguan priest, speaking anonymously at the International Religious Freedom Summit in Washington D.C., delivered a chilling account ofpersecution under President Daniel Ortega’s regime. His voice, disguised by a voice modifier, described being arrested, insulted, beaten, and imprisoned by Ortega’s forces.
As read in the article that Tyler Arnold wrote for CNA, the priest emphasized the risk he undertook, stating, “I’m not here [in Washington] for a vacation. My family faces constant surveillance back home.”
Despite the danger, he felt compelled to speak out, driven byfaith and a commitment to democracy and justice. “If we Christians remain silent, who will speak for freedom?” he declared.
This priest is just one example of the dozens of clergy targeted by Ortega’s crackdown. In 2023 alone, at least 46 members of the Catholic clergy, including bishops and seminarians, were detained or forcefully expelled from the country. Schools, media outlets, and other Church institutions have also faced closure and harassment.
The summit attendees were shaken by the priest’s testimony, which shed light on the dire situation faced by religious communities in Nicaragua. His courage in speaking out, despite the personal risk, served as a reminder of the ongoing struggle for religious freedom around the world.
Decimated by persecution
The Catholic Church in Nicaragua has been decimated by persecution, with 40% of priests in the Diocese of Matagalpa either having passed away or having been forced to flee the country since 2018. This has left many parishes without pastors and has weakened the Church’s ability to serve its flock.
In declarations to Confidencial, the exiled priest Carlos Adolfo Zeledón Montenegro described the situation as “devastating.” He said that the loss of priests has “weakened pastoral life” and has made it difficult for the Church to provide basic services to its parishioners.
The Mosaico CSI team has verified that at least 97 priests have been forced to leave Nicaragua since 2018. As well, there are also at least 13 priests who have passed away since that year.
This means that the total loss of priests is 110 in about five years, which is equivalent to 20% of the total clergy registered as of 2020.