Today marks the second week since the kidnapping of Monsignor Rolando José Álvarez and ten other people, including priests and lay people, who are being held in the curial house of Matagalpa, surrounded by dozens of police dozens of police officers.
The bishop of Matagalpa represents one of the last prophetic voices of the Catholic Church that the Ortega Murillo dictatorship has never been able to intimidate or co-opt, and now threatens to silence him through jail or exile.
The attack against Bishop Alvarez is not an isolated event or the result of a former presidential appointee, but the culmination of an escalation of aggressions against the Church and civil society, to violate the freedom of conscience of every citizen.
In these two weeks of resistance, we have witnessed dramatic gestures by the bishop that have morally moved thousands of people. His determination not to submit to injustice has prevented the execution of orders to impose jail or banishment so far. However, the civic resistance of a country cannot depend solely on the courage and integrity of one person. The gesture of Monsignor Alvarez demands solidarity and accompaniment.
Many people wonder how far the persecutory viciousness of the Ortega Murillo regime can go and what will happen if they manage to assert themselves against Monsignor Alvarez. In reality, the limits of what the dictatorship can do depend on the resistance of the citizens and the will of the executors of the repression, and in this case also of the Episcopal Conference of the Catholic Church itself. If the bishops remain silent, the dictatorship will continue to subjugate the Church, silencing the last reserve of civic spaces.
Monsignor Alvarez has already been practically condemned by the regime’s police, who are investigating him for the alleged crime of promoting violence, hatred, and anxiety when everyone knows that the only thing he has done is to preach hope and peace with the word of Jesus Christ and his own personal testimony.
The virulence of these attacks has caused a unanimous rejection in all the active forces of the country, including public servants, civil and military, who silently condemn the repression against the Church. But when a fatal countdown is running to decide on the physical integrity and freedom of the bishop, silence is no longer an option when the physical integrity and freedom of the bishop and his companions are at stake.
It is true that there is fear and generalized fear, because of these irrational attacks, and because of the desperation and hatred with which the rulers entrenched in El Carmen operate. But if jail or banishment is imposed against Monsignor Alvarez, the dictatorship will bury hope, imposing fear and silence.
Therefore, the only option left is to demand the freedom of Monsignor Alvarez and his companions, the cessation of persecution against the Church, and the suspension of the police state.
This is what 27 nations of the American continent have demanded in a resolution of the Organization of American States, which was only rejected by the government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, an ally of the Ortega dictatorship.
The deployment of the police force to try to silence the prophetic voice of the Church is not a symptom of strength either, but of the moral breakdown and political weakness of a corrupt family dictatorship. Police and Army officers, as well as judges and prosecutors, are not obliged to comply with the spurious and illegal orders of Ortega and Murillo. They too are forced to choose between dictatorship and democracy. The cessation of repression against the Catholic Church is also a moral imperative that public officials who are not committed to massacres, torture and corruption must abide by. After the forced exile of Monsignor Silvio José Baez more than two years ago, the Episcopal Conference should not accept that another bishop be forced into exile from his homeland by the pressure of the dictatorship, even if this measure might have the consent of the Vatican.
On the contrary, if Pope Francis really wants to contribute to keep alive the hope of the prophetic voice of the Church in Nicaragua, then he should also advocate for the freedom of Bishop Alvarez and his companions, and for the return of Bishop Baez and all the exiled religious.
A second exiled or exiled bishop would represent a devastating blow to the credibility and confidence in the Episcopal Conference of Nicaragua. With the freedom of Monsignor Alvarez, on the other hand, the way can be opened for the liberation of all political prisoners, and the return of the exiled, including the religious, to begin the recovery of Nicaragua’s freedom.
This article was originally published in Spanish in Confidencial and translated by our staff