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Violence escalates in Nicaragua, PC(USA) mission co-worker leaves temporarily

 

Nearly 300 people have been killed since violence began in April

by Kathy Melvin | Presbyterian News Service

With an improvised memorial on the road to Masaya, in Managua, thousands of people remember the victims of the five days of protests. (Gesell Tobias/VOA)

LOUISVILLE — Two months ago, peaceful protesters in Nicaragua were brutally attacked by forces loyal to the government. The ensuing unrest has resulted in the death of nearly 300 people, and many Nicaraguans won’t leave their homes for fear of being shot. A special commission of the Organization of American States is investigating the government’s involvement in the violence.

The employees of CEPAD, the Council of Evangelical Churches in Nicaragua — a Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) global partner — remain safe but fearful as the violence continues to escalate. Damaris Albuquerque, executive director of CEPAD, wrote in the last update:

“Three of our staff have been victims of robberies in different parts of the country. One of them was robbed while eating at a diner, another one was assaulted when he was going to his parents’ home in a nearby town on his motorcycle, and the house of a third one was broken into in the middle of the day, when he and his wife were at work and the children were at school. All their valuables were stolen.”

The PC(USA) currently has one mission co-worker serving in Nicaragua. Tracey King-Ortega, regional liaison for Central America, lives in the capital city of Managua with her family and first worked with CEPAD starting in 1999. In her work with CEPAD, she cultivated the development of long-term, committed relationships of solidarity, accompaniment, friendship and spiritual growth between churches in the United States and churches in Nicaragua. She continues to collaborate with CEPAD in her current role as regional liaison.

King-Ortega has made the difficult decision to leave the country temporarily and is asking for prayers for brothers and sisters who cannot leave.

“For now, my husband and I have decided that it is better for me and the kids to be in the U.S.,” she said. “We’ll continue to evaluate the situation and hope for things to improve soon, but nothing really indicates that that will happen. As my husband said, ‘Nicaragua is not a place for children.’ As much as we want to raise resilient children, and trust we could probably keep them safe, I fear that the extreme levels of uncertainty, insecurity and violence in Nicaragua could be traumatizing for them and us. I wrestle with the privilege to make these decisions, but know it is what is best for our small children at this time.”

The evolving situation in Nicaragua generated two resolutions at the 223rd General Assembly (2018) of the PC(USA) in St. Louis in June. The Rev. Kathryn Beilke of First Presbyterian Church of Hudson in New York helped draft one of the commissioners’ resolutions. Speaking to the committee on Peacemaking, Immigration and International Issues, she said: “I serve a congregation with members who are Nicaraguan natives; they are lifelong activists, lovers of Jesus and invaluable servants to our community. They are devastated over what’s happening in their country where many of their friends and family members reside. For the last few months, they have been marching in the streets from D.C. to NYC, waving their blue and white flag, and taking meetings with anyone who will listen and might become a potential advocate.”

She said that as their pastor she felt that it is important to find a way for the Presbyterian Church to speak up and take notice. In the words of her congregants, Juan Sanchez and his wife, Lloyda Garcia Morena, “What Nicaraguans are living right now is terrorizing. It is apocalyptic. I have no words to express the pain I feel in my heart right now. As Christians, we should condemn this injustice and not keep quiet.”

The content of the resolutions is available on PC Biz:

https://www.pc-biz.org/#/search/3000482
https://www.pc-biz.org/#/search/3000465

CIEETS (the Interchurch Center for Social and Theological Studies), another PC(USA) partner, issued a statement and asked for solidarity and prayer for the people of Nicaragua. Naming the atrocities that have traumatized the nation since April 18, they identify the important contributions they hope the evangelical church will be making.

“Our mission is the search for the construction of peace with justice, democratization in the state and society, the reconstruction of the country, and the coexistence of all sectors of the nation.” The statement goes on to provide a list of recommendations and pastoral guidelines for the church in this current crisis. The full text of CIEETS’s latest statement follows.

CEPAD provides occasional updates on the situation that can be accessed here. They have also come up with a concrete list of “Ways to Support Nicaragua.”

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CIEETS STATEMENT:

In the name of Christ, we greet you: Pastors, Deacons, Bible Teachers, Evangelists and Pastoral Counselors of the Evangelical Churches of our country. We pray that the Grace of the Lord be in your ministries at the service of your Churches and the Nicaraguan people.

Everyone can attest to the fact that we are all suffering the pain of the deaths of, according to statistics from Human Rights Organizations, 220 people (most of them young people) and the more than 2000 injured, illegally detained and disappeared, whose main responsibility is attributed to the Government and its police forces. Therefore, we urge the Government of President Ortega to order the cessation of repression and to deepen the spirit of the National Dialogue towards a negotiation for a peaceful, orderly and democratic solution within the framework of the Constitution. Our mission is the search for the construction of peace with justice, democratization in the State and Society, the reconstruction of the country, and the coexistence of all sectors of the nation.

As Evangelical Churches, we wish to deepen our contributions in the face of the current crisis. Therefore, among the main recommendations to the leadership of our Churches, we propose to follow these pastoral guidelines:

  • We must continue to show solidarity with the victims of repression. Victims need companionship, love, consolation, prayers of healing, encouragement and hope. May we continue to support mothers, fathers and families who have lost loved ones. Pastoral consolation is vital for grieving families. Our students of theology, psychology and medicine are linked to these processes.
  • We should keep contributing food, medicine, drinking water, clothes in good condition, and economic resources to families that have become impoverished and are facing difficulties in the present crisis, as well as food and medicines for young people, residents, and peasants in need. Service among others is fundamental in the face of human needs.
  • Let us continue in solidarity with the national and international Human Rights organizations urging an integral investigation of the deaths that have taken place in order to bring justice to those responsible for these deaths. Our students and law teachers are linked to this process.
  • We should continue to make recommendations that help the National Dialogue Table to move forward in the Agreements of both parties for a peaceful, orderly and democratic solution, in accordance with the Constitution.
  • Let’s keep fasting and praying for the cessation of violence.

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