Everyone has the fundamental human right to live and speak the truth, and when repression hits, these are often the first liberties under attack. The right to freely speak one’s mind exposes repressive regimes for what they are, driving dictatorships to clamp down on free speech and the free exercise of religion. The crisis of human rights happening in Nicaragua today highlights this age-old trend in action. All who dare to speak out against the Ortega regime risk brutal silencing and punishing at the hands of the state, and one leader in particular, Bishop Rolando Álvarez, has garnered international attention for his steadfast fidelity to the truth.
Nicaraguans are experiencing significant oppression under the Ortega regime. A majority Catholic country, the government has targeted the Catholic Church in its efforts to dismantle any remaining opposition to its consolidation of power. The country has been in a state of turmoil since April 2018 with the eruption of massive protests against the government. Although the Church initially was approached to moderate tensions between the people and the government, the regime has since done an about-face, setting its sights on religious orders, places of worship, institutions, and media.
Bishop Álvarez, responding to his sense of duty as a Catholic pastor, became a peaceful, but insistent, witness against these attacks, delivering words of hope to the people in his church sermons. The bishop caught the world’s attention when he refused an offer of exile from the Nicaraguan government, choosing to remain with his people.
For sharing a message of faith with the people of Nicaragua, the bishop was held under house arrest and subsequently charged and convicted as a criminal — a violation of his human rights in blatant contravention of international law. First arrested in August of 2022, in February of this year, Bishop Álvarez was stripped of his citizenship rights and sentenced to 26 years in prison in a sham trial he did not know was happening. He was convicted as a traitor for “undermining national integrity” and “propagation of false news.” Further, the bishop was denied his lawyer of choice, and his lawyer was later prevented from obtaining essential information about his case. A request for an appeal of his conviction was summarily denied, reflective of the state of affairs of the justice system in Nicaragua.
Absent any effective avenues for justice in a country overrun by oppressive forces, the bishop’s only recourse is international action. On September 12, ADF International filed a petition for urgent intervention at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, the body charged with the protection of human rights in Latin America. Currently on the 7th month of his prison sentence, the bishop’s current health and wellbeing are unknown, prompting international concern. It is imperative that the Commission act now to demand his release and an end to the human rights abuses besieging the people of Nicaragua.
On September 11, another Nicaraguan priest was arrested for the “crime” of praying for Bishop Álvarez. The regime is sending clear signals — dissent will not be tolerated. In times of repression, people look to their leaders, and the Ortega regime’s hostility toward Álvarez and others broadcasts to all of society that religious expression is not allowed.
No one should suffer persecution at the hands of the state because of their faith. All concerned with the protection of human rights should be outraged by the Nicaraguan crisis, speaking out in defense of Bishop Álvarez and the people of Nicaragua.
Elyssa Koren serves as director of legal communications for ADF International, which has petitioned the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on the case of Nicaraguan bishop Rolando Álvarez.
The views expressed in this piece are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.