Nicaraguans afraid to go to church because of anti-Sandinista rebels

crime | Oct 29, 2013 | By Martin Barillas

"Sincere dialogue between the government and re-armed groups must take precedence over weapons, because war does not leave anything good", said Catholic Bishop Carlos Enrique Herrera Gutiérrez of Jinotega in an interview with the press on October 27. The Nicaraguan clergyman met with reporters in the cathedral of San Juan, after the closing Mass of the pilgrimage of faithful who walked some 15 miles from Los Robles (20 kilometers north) to the center of Jinotega. The pilgrimage focused on the themes peace, the closing of the Year of Faith, and the Jubilee for the centenary of the ecclesiastical Province.
 
The pilgrimage took place as tensions grow in Jinotega, a province that borders on Honduras. Due to its isolation and proximity to the international border, Jinotega has been the most war-torn area in Nicaragua. In the 1920s and 30s, then in the 1970s and 80s, fighting between insurgents and the government claimed thousands of lives and hindered development. Of late, organized groups have clashed with government security forces. The socialist government of President Daniel Ortega, who was once a member of the Sandinista government the was the focus of much of U.S. foreign policy in the region in the 1980s, refers to the groups as criminal gangs that prefer to see themselves as rebels.
 
Over the last two weeks, the number of people attending church services in Jinotega has dropped dramatically, according to church sources. According to Bishop Herrera, it is "especially young people are afraid of ending up in the midst of some clash that could start off in the area."
 
Armed groups have appeared in the northern tier of Nicaragua since 2009, while since July 2013 they have clashed several times with the army . In the past month, two members of the Councils of Citizen Power, a committee that assists town mayors, were killed in Wiwili and Pantasma, presumably by rearmed groups. 
Bishop Herrera said he is willing to act as a mediator between the government and rearmed groups "if there were sincere dialog, an agreement to lay down their arms", while adding, "We are inviting the faithful to pray, to trust in the Lord so that he helps us. Weapo

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Spero News editor Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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