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6/28/2024 United States (International Christian Concern) — The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) today released a new report on religious freedom violations perpetrated by the Nicaraguan government against Christians. 

In its report, USCIRF details the authoritarian regime’s persecution of Catholic and Protestant Christians within the nation. 

“Nicaragua’s government continues to repress the Catholic Church for its human rights advocacy by arbitrarily arresting, imprisoning, and exiling clergy and laypeople and shuttering and seizing the property of Catholic charitable and educational organizations,” the assessment states. “As [President] Ortega and [Vice President] Murillo seek to maintain their hold on power, the authorities have been using similar tactics to oppress Protestant denominations.” 

According to the report, President Daniel Ortega and his wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo, have referred to Catholic priests as “representatives of the devil” and negatively likened the Church to a “mafia.” 

Ortega and Murillo have tightened their grip on the socialist nation since mass protests against social security reductions broke out in 2018. However, anger from citizens who had endured extreme human rights abuses had been building for years.  

Since the 2018 protests, Nicaraguan authorities have routinely targeted Christian communities because they are perceived as threats to government power for speaking out against human rights violations. 

Authoritarian laws put in place by those in power allow the nation to arbitrarily arrest and charge religious leaders with false crimes, such as money laundering or cybercrimes. Law No. 1042, for example, makes “spreading ‘false news’” a crime. 

Cybercrimes was one of the charges levied at Catholic Bishop Rolando Alvarez. The clergyman was sentenced to 26 years in prison, and his citizenship was taken away in 2023 for criticizing “the government’s human rights record and its closure of several Catholic radio stations.” He was eventually released from prison and exiled to the Vatican after the Nicaraguan government received strong international pressure to release him. 

In March 2024, 11 Protestant pastors associated with Mountain Gateway, an Evangelical Christian missionary organization, were sentenced to between 12 and 15 years per person and received a fine of $80 million. They were charged with trumped-up money laundering charges, and it is reported that their attorneys could not access their clients’ files, nor could the pastors meet with legal counsel during the court proceedings. 

The ongoing persecution of Christians in Nicaragua doesn’t seem to be slowing.  

According to the report, “the Ortega-Murillo regime’s religious freedom violations have continued to increase dramatically since the April 2018 protests. The government uses its repressive legal framework to persecute Catholic and Protestant communities through arrest, imprisonment, and the seizure of property from religious organizations.” 

To read more news stories, visit the ICC Newsroom. For interviews, please email [email protected].