Prayer Update: September 03, 2018

By Steve Fish, Vineyard Missions Nicaragua Partnership leader

During the past 15 years that we have worked as a partnership in Nicaragua, we have been thankful that this poor country has been the safest country in Central America, free from the gang related violence and political upheavals experienced elsewhere. All that changed in April. When the Ortega government announced cuts to social security benefits, students and pensioners took to the streets in non-violent protest. The government quickly responded with bullets and beatings. Within days, 26 people had been killed and many more wounded.

In response to this violent repression by the government, the protest spread to cities throughout this country of 6 million. Tensions had been building for years as Ortega increased his hold on power, changed the constitution, installed his wife as Vice-President, and enriched his family and cronies at the expense of the country. This one-time Marxist revolutionary is now seen as a repeat of the former dictator Somoza. Four months have passed and the turmoil has continued.

Human rights organizations report the death toll to be over 400, with over 2000 wounded, and hundreds have been detained or have just disappeared. Most of the violence has been attributed to masked, armed paramilitary gangs aligned with the government and national police, who roam the streets throughout the country. There is an unofficial de-facto curfew at night because most people are afraid to venture out at night. The once booming tourist trade has collapsed, 80% of small hotels and 35% of restaurants have closed. Airlines have cut back or ceased their inbound flights. Foreign investment has dried up, and 120,000 workers have been laid off. Catholic Church clergy have attempted to mediate a dialog between the government and the opposition to no avail. The Organization of American States and the UN have condemned the actions of the government and called for early elections. The US Embassy has closed except for emergencies, sent home all unnecessary personnel and their families. There is a travel advisory in place for citizens from the US and Canada. Ortega’s government has denied any involvement in the killings and passed laws declaring the opposition as terrorists. Now they are systematically searching for and imprisoning suspected leaders of the opposition.

Meanwhile our La Viña churches continue to proclaim the kingdom of God and attempt to demonstrate the peace and love of His kingdom. Though no members of our churches have been hurt, friends and relatives have been. Most of our 8 churches have suspended their nighttime and weekday meetings, but they continue to meet on Sundays. Some have even reported an increase in new attendees. Others continue with their community service offering after-school tutoring and feeding programs in these difficult times. Our pastors have asked for and greatly appreciate the prayer support of our partnership Vineyards. Pray for peace and a speedy resolution to the turmoil in Nicaragua. Pray that our churches could represent Jesus well, offering peace where there is so much fear, and love and forgiveness where there is so much anger and hatred.