“Dialogue is the only solution”– Advent message of the Nicaraguan bishops
A few days before the national feast day of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Cardinal Leopoldo José Brenes, the Archbishop of Managua, has called on people to “pray for Nicaragua, for peace and unity among the people and in the families”. Specifically in a video message sent to the international Catholic pastoral charity and pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need (ACN International) the Cardinal goes on to insist, “The tears of the people are the tears of God, and so they are also the tears of Mary, who is our Mother. She would weep seeing our situation”, ,. Speaking to the media about the significance of this great feast day for the Nicaraguan people, Cardinal Brenes gave thanks to God for the fact that conflicts in the country “are diminishing” and expressed the hope that little by little, “we will be able to regain peace”. And he invited people to “continue working during this Advent of hope” and at the same time to reflect on the broad pastoral message for Advent published by the Nicaraguan Bishops’ Conference, which has not been well received in every quarter of society.
In their Advent message – issued at a critical moment for the country, which is still in the throes of a social and political crisis caused by the killings and repression which first prompted the protests against President Daniel Ortega – the Nicaraguan Bishops remind people that they must act as though they are “co-workers of God” in the face of “injustice and oppression”. They must not allow themselves “to be seduced by quick-fix solutions”. Instead, “the new Nicaragua needs non-violent leaders who, with the help of God, will achieve goals of freedom and justice.” The bishops call for dialogue, for words and gestures of solidarity, love and forgiveness in order to confront the violence. They remind people that in the face of the conflicts and the crisis the country is going through, “no one can remain detached with arms folded”, at the sight of “the suffering of our adversaries, who have not ceased to be our brothers”. The bishops insist that everyone must break with their own “personal egoisms” in order to become more and more like “the Lord”.
Cardinal Leopoldo José Brenes insists on dialogue, which he describes as “the spirit of the Church, be it in the family, vis-a-vis our neighbours or in politics”. The same sentiment is contained in the Advent message of the bishops, in which they emphasise that “a good politician is one who has in mind the interests of all parties and seizes the opportunity to engage in dialogue with an open spirit”. At the same time they recognise that it is difficult for every issue to be solved through dialogue between the state and society, and add that they themselves are “willing to accompany any proposals that best live up to human dignity and the common good”. “With dialogue there is hope for the future; without it every effort will end in failure. This is the only peaceful way out of this social and political crisis”, they conclude.
The crisis in Nicaragua
Nicaragua is currently going through a political and social crisis which has its root cause in the growing authoritarianism and lack of respect for the rule of law that started emerging in the last decade, following the electoral victory of President Daniel Ortega in 2006. An attempted reform of the Social Security system by the government in April 2018 prompted mass protests, which were violently repressed by groups close to the government. The result was hundreds killed, hundreds of young people still lingering in the prisons of Nicaragua and thousand of young people who simply left the country. Nicaragua is now a divided and desperate country. The Church in Nicaragua, which has taken a critical stance in response to the political authoritarianism it has witnessed, has likewise been subjected to a campaign of vilification on the part of the government and has received a constant string of threats from groups close to President Ortega. Several bishops have been attacked, among them auxiliary Bishop Silvio Báez of Managua, Bishop Juan Mata of Estelí and Bishop Rolando Alvarez of Matagalpa. Not to mention the violent incident in the Basilica of San Sebastian in the city of Diriamba, when Cardinal Leopoldo Brenes and the apostolic nuncio, Archbishop Waldemar Sommertag were both assaulted.
ACN International has just concluded a visit to Nicaragua to investigate the situation at first hand and assess what practical help can be given to the local Church to help reinforce its pastoral outreach in these difficult and delicate moments for the country.