Nicaraguan Regime Imprisons 11 Pastors as Christian Persecution Spreads
The communist Nicaraguan regime under President Daniel Ortega has expanded its persecution of Christians in the Central American country, imprisoning 11 evangelical pastors, including three U.S. citizens, along with two attorneys in December. An American pastor who ministered in Nicaragua and is now wanted by the government is speaking out on their behalf and petitioning Congress and the State Department to work for their release.
In 2018, Ortega’s government reignited a pattern of persecution against the Catholic Church in Nicaragua, in which dozens of priests and bishops have been jailed. Over the last five years, 97 priests have been forced to leave the country, and the small Central American nation has seen a 20% drop in registered clergy. The communist regime has also confiscated Church property, banned public religious processions and celebrations, and held Bishop Rolando Álvarez of Matagalpa in prison for 527 days.
Now, the regime has turned its sights on evangelicals. In 2023, the Mountain Gateway missionary organization led a series of evangelistic gospel campaigns that drew almost one million people. Initially, the Nicaraguan government appeared to endorse the events, but in December, the regime swiftly changed course and arrested 11 Mountain Gateway pastors along with two attorneys, charging them with “organized crime” and “money laundering.” As of now, the government has refused to issue any indictments or documents related to the charges, and the pastors have been denied access to a legal defense.
As Britt Hancock, the founder and director of Mountain Gateway, described on “Washington Watch with Tony Perkins” Thursday, since 2015 his ministry had not only been planting churches in Nicaragua but had also been assisting in distributing food, clothing, and other resources to families in rural locations throughout the country, particularly after a series of deadly hurricanes hit the coastal nation in 2020.
In addition, through a series of circumstances, Hancock related how he was able to preach and minister to dozens of Nicaraguan government officials starting in 2022, and his organization got permission to put on 23 mass evangelism crusades. But at that point, something changed.
“We had government auditors in our office unannounced,” he explained. “… We had to turn in a budget with a line item and tell them what we plan to do with every dollar. And then at the end of the month, they would come in and say, ‘You said you were going to do this. Now show me the proof and the receipts that that’s what you did.’ And we did that for every single month all year. [T]hey wouldn’t let us do the transfers to run the crusades and the rest of our ministry without that scrutiny. … [W]e’ve not seen any public charging documents against us because I’m indicted, too [along with] my son and my daughter-in-law [and] our national pastors. But they’ve given [out] press releases [saying] that we are being indicted for organized crime and money laundering.”
Hancock went on to describe how his organization is attempting to enlist the help of the U.S. government to free the pastors. “We’re starting to get traction with some congressmen and senators. We need the State Department to weigh in. We need Congress to do what they can to put pressure on the Nicaraguan government so that they’ll release our pastors who are innocent.”
In the wake of the Nicaraguan regime’s persecution of Christians, which has included the forced closure of over 3,500 mostly Christian nonprofits and nongovernmental organizations since 2018, Representatives Chris Smith (R-N.J.) and María Elvira Salazar (R-Fla.) introduced the Restoring Sovereignty and Human Rights in Nicaragua Act last month, which would impose a series of economic sanctions against Ortega’s communist regime.
“The United States needs to step up and act quickly to implement all the tools at our disposal to bring an end to Ortega’s horrific abuses against innocent people of faith and political prisoners in Nicaragua,” Smith stated.
Dan Hart is senior editor at The Washington Stand.