In the midst of the independence days celebrations in Nicaragua, the denouncement by the IACHR of continued repression by the government and lack of civil liberties, the rejection by the government of a high level OAS delegation to find a peaceful resolution to the crisis, the Catholic Bishops Conference issued this pastoral letter. It is a hopeful and faith filled response to the current bleak situation, encouraging non violent change for a more inclusive and tolerant society.
MESSAGE SEPTEMBER 15, 2019
EPISCOPAL CONFERENCE OF NICARAGUA
TO FAITHFUL CHRISTIAN CATHOLICS, MEN AND WOMEN OF GOOD WILL WHO LISTEN TO OUR VOICES
Truth and forgiveness are the basis and path to peace
We write to you, while commemorating these days of patriotism, with a look to the present and the future, as was done on Independence day whose new anniversary we celebrate. And since there is no future without memory, the present offers the opportunity to feel pain from our disputes, past and recent. After nearly a year and a half of suffering and pain where we have experienced in our flesh the passion of our Lord Jesus Christ. This encourages us to pronounce the Word of life and hope that comforts wounded hearts and illuminates uncertainty in the face of the evil that stalks us.
The firm basis for a new construction
We can ask ourselves. How can we contribute to the solution of the acute social, political problems and respond to the great challenge of poverty and exclusion? How can we do this in a country which finds itself in a profound political, social and economic crisis, where the beginning of a new stage seems to be appearing, with its corresponding challenges for our democratic coexistence? There are signs that our institutional attire is too tight, and the citizenry expression is emerging asking for profound changes and reforms. The economic inequality, unemployment and opportunities seem an endemic evil difficult to correct, condemning several social collectives to unfair exclusion and invisibility, like migrants, women, youth, people with different capacities, ethnic groups, among others. Is it possible to love the person who closes the doors of their heart to Our Lord Jesus Christ and thereby, to the opportunity to promote a culture of true peace and democracy? Is it possible to maintain hope, when everything seems to indicate that there is no power capable of resolving our crisis? What can be done, if the word of civil society does not count? Is it possible today in Nicaragua to be Catholic and work for an Institution that does not respect conscience, and toys with the hunger of the people? How can so much cruelty to which we have been subjected be pardoned? Is it possible to heal these wounds?
As brothers along the path, the Episcopal Conference of Nicaragua makes these questions its own, and responds animated by faith: Pope Benedict XVI, on inaugurating the Ecclesial Conference of Aparecida, offers us in this respect a brilliant contribution:
“The problems of Latin America and the Caribbean, as well as the world today, are multiple and complex, and cannot be confronted with general programs […]. In this context it is indispensable to talk about the problem of structures, above all, those that create injustice. In reality, just structures are a condition without which a just order in society is not possible. But how do they start? How do they work? Capitalism as well as Marxism promised finding the path for the creation of just structures, and stated that they, once established, would function on their own; they stated that not only would there not be a need for a prior individual morality, but that they would promote common morality. And it has been demonstrated that this ideological promise is false. The facts make it clear”[…] Just structures are an indispensable condition for a just society, but they do not begin nor function without a moral consensus of society about fundamental values, and about the need to live these values with the necessary renunciations, including against one´s personal interests […].
LET US LOVE THE COUNTRY. We also invite you to Love the Country.
The love for country that should prevail above individual goods, if it is as such, Pope Benedict already said it, has to be united with the pillars that provide sustenance to all coexistence: truth, justice, liberty, fraternity, solidarity. And it also requires more subjective virtues, like empathy, the commitment to know and appreciate others, the desire to save the proposition of the neighbor. Otherwise, the very objective pillars of Love for country are weakened and deteriorate with the reiteration of suspicions and disqualifications. And one small pebble is enough to bring down what an enormous effort had been able to raise up. Is this not one of the causes of the unrest, that, in spite of the evident progress, afflicts national coexistence?
Crisis of Trust
One of the reasons that are at the root of the unrest is due to a crisis of trust, which has been transformed in our Nicaragua into an omnipresent virus that infects all the relationships of our lives, and this is reprehensible! Authority is distrusted, institutions are distrusted, good intentions are distrusted and even the viability of projects themselves. This very distrust puts stress on family life, distances us from our neighbors, and creates barriers between groups and sectors. For this reason, the dialogue that we need to solve our problems is seen to be interrupted, curtailed, darkened. And we even distrust its feasibility and effectiveness for achieving the agreements needed […] It is impossible to believe in distrust! It is impossible to educate in distrust! It is impossible to love with distrust! Distrust cuts the fabric of human tissue and makes the beam that holds up the temple, the nation, the home collapse.
For this reason the cultivation of trust has to be enriched with the “culture of encounter”, which implies the more active attitude of taking responsibility for the other, of committing myself to their care, to their growth, to their freedom, because in the diversity that God has given us as gift is also our wealth. It is not just a matter of “tolerating” the one who is different – a minimalistic attitude – but of “celebrating” with magnanimity our differences, expressing them with freedom, with care and respect, to grow the wealth of our ideas and values. Let us think about Nicaragua and love our country, that is the greatest good of life in society. To work for the good of Nicaragua is to care for, on one hand, and to use, on the other hand, this series of institutions that legally, civilly, politically and culturally structure social life, which is configured in this way as a nation. Our neighbor is loved more effectively the more one works for the good of the country that responds also to their real needs, having the wisdom of integrating and including their wounds and disagreements, certainly in this way we will be capable of inaugurating a more demanding and qualitatively more robust democracy. As pastors, we are fully certain that we can do this in Nicaragua. In this sense, we encourage the youth to continue making their contributions to the nation, with their study and training, with their energy and yearnings for justice and liberty, with all the non violent means within their reach. We do it with the words of Pope Francis, in the World Youth Campaign celebrated in Rio de Janeiro: “do not put yourself at the tail end of history. Be active members! Go on the offensive! Play down the field, build a better world, a world of brothers and sisters, a world of justice, of love, of peace, of fraternity, of solidarity. “ (Pope Francis, Speech to Youth, July 27, 2013).
Encouraged by faith we also believe that:
- A new culture laden with hope is possible. As long as there are men and women lovers of Truth and love, who hope and believe in a better future, their dreams will not be snatched away from them. “The God that made himself a lamb tells us that the world is saved by the crucified one and not by the crucifiers. The world is redeemed by the patience of God, and destroyed by the impatience of human beings” (Benedict XVI). The flame that we have received of family values needs to be kept alive: our being eucharistic, marian, believers, hardworking, jovial, sacrificial, etc.
- “You have heard that it was said: you will love your neighbor and you will hate your enemy. Well I say to you: love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you might be the children of our heavenly Father…(Mt 5:43-45). These words of Jesus are not easy to live. Since logically they assume swimming against the current. Even for the disciples themselves it was difficult for them to understand and take on that language. Justifiably they said among themselves this language is difficult, who will be able to understand it? (Jn 9:60). Nevertheless, with his deeds and words, Jesus was establishing a new culture: the culture of love (Jn 15:12). Systems of power and oppression are smashed there. Throughout history we have seen men and women who have assumed this mandate of loving without limits: let us recall Saint Oscar Arnulfo Romero, prophet and martyr in the midst of a context marked by hate and death; the Servant of God, Fr. Odorico D´Andrea, who exercised the apostolate of mercy, reconciliation and offered his life for the peace of this country, marked as well by hate and death. They did not renounce Truth and Love, and that is why they did so much good for their peoples. Today our country more than ever yearns to resort to this capacity for loving as a response to the system of hate and death installed in Nicaragua, which attempts to hide the action of God.
- It is difficult to be a Catholic Christian in these conditions, but, we exhort you to not quit struggling for our faith. As long as we are faithful to our values, we know that “nothing is lost as long is there is hope to find it” (St. Augustine). Fundamental for each one of us Nicaraguans is “looking at He who sees us” (St. Theresa of Avila), and that we do not give up. He knew that he was going to be crucified. He knew everything that he was going to suffer. Nevertheless, he made the decision to go up to Jerusalem, to the place of his martyrdom. This conviction for his mission, salvific one, made him overcome the obstacles of the enemies as well of those closest to him (Mt 27:1-2; Mk 10: 32.45; Lk 20:20-26). This has to be our conviction in the mission that we have of building together a country with true peace and democracy. In spite of the fact that a brother Nicaraguan might feel misunderstood where he works. In spite of the fact that he might feel judged or rejected by those who are around him, even by his family for thinking differently (Mt 10: 34-36; Lk 12: 51-53), as long as his life revolves around love, in the end everything will make sense. That is why it is necessary to cultivate prayer. God always has the last word. Let us remain with him, like Mary at the foot of the cross (Jn 19:25). Let us hope with faith. Let us do it for God, for our children, for our youth, for our elderly, being faithful to our Church.
- To carry out this mission it is important to forgive, as Jesus tells us: “if someone hits you on the cheek, offer him the other. If someone forces you to give him your mantle, give him also your tunic” (Mt 5:39-40). When Jesus asks you to do this, he is not inviting you to act like a fool, but he is inviting you to break with the cycle of violence. This is being wise. Because violence engenders violence, and as our grandmothers say: “fire is not extinguished with fire”. Let us not wait for the enemies of good to take this step, it is us, first of all, who have to take it on, because forgiveness brings with it that peace that we are called to cultivate. If we want social peace, let us first seek peace in our hearts. We need to break the cycle of violence. There are many peoples who have triumphed with peaceful revolution, with the force of values, faith, hope and charity, in a word, with the power of God.
The illuminating Word of the Gospel
In the face of this great challenge, in the Christian tradition, the wisdom of the Sermon of the Mount emerges with beauty and cogency, especially the Beatitudes. The protagonists in them are not the powerful, nor the rich, the erudite, nor those who determine the immediate future of populations. The protagonists are the poor, the afflicted, dispossessed, those who hunger and thirst for justice, the merciful, the clean of heart, those who work for peace.
The Beatitudes invite us to build our coexistence not on iron poorly mixed with clay, but on the rock of the Word of God. And this firmness is expressed, necessarily, in care for those most disadvantaged of our society, who hope that justice might be for them a mother that shelters them, honors them and invites them to the table of all. Not just for pity, which would already be a human sentiment, but so that they might have available that which is owed them in justice.
In the words of Pope Francis, “the future demands today the task of rehabilitating politics, which is one of the highest forms of charity. The future demands of us also a humanistic vision of the economy, and a politics that achieves evermore and better participation of people, avoids elitism and eradicates poverty”. And to achieve this urgent mission he had invited us with great clarity to “travel in pilgrimage to the existential fringes of society.”
Conclusion: Invited to dream
Authorities, friends, brothers and sisters: The Sermon of the Mount (Mt 5-7) is a monument to fraternity. It is based on our common descendancy from God the Father, who does not admit discrimination based on race, sex, creed or lack of belief. A fraternity that, when it is forgotten, leads us to act like Cain, losing good sense and abandoning more human means. It is the madness that leads to preparing rockets and putting trust in weapons of death. This has never been the path. Never! In contrast, when real space is given to fraternity and it is believed in, we can confront one another with the truth, expressed with respect, love, frankness and with affection, and with an untiring dialogue, keeping the doors open to reunion and coexistence in peace.
Invited to dream
Let us recall the dream of Martin Luther King (June 28, 1963), let ourselves be allowed to dream from faith, as bishops of our country Nicaragua: let us dream of a country where we might rediscover graciousness in our personal and institutional relationships; let us dream of a country where people are exactly in the center of our concern and our work; let us dream of recognizing one another as brothers, as sisters, even more fraternal with the weakest, most vulnerable and with those with different capacities; let us dream that the greatest interest not be money but the growth of people and the happiness of their families; let us dream that Nicaragua might be, in truth, a table for all, also for those who migrate seeking in that home new horizons for their lives; let us dream of a country without discrimination of any type; let us dream of a country with its hand extended and face uncovered; let us dream of a just, fraternal and caring country.
Let us dream of a reconciled country! Let us dream of a hopeful country!
PRAY THE ROSARY
Mary is the beloved of Yahweh and Nicaragua belongs to Mary. We invite you to pray as a family the Holy Rosary so that our mother might take to Jesus the intention of being faithful to our mission of building a better Nicaragua for all. Let us cultivate this tradition around our grandparents and parents. It is in the family, “small domestic church” (St. Paul VI), where new leaders are formed with the vocation of service to the country. The solution to our conflicts as a nation start in the family. Let us make our homes into sanctuaries of love.
Issued in the offices of the Episcopal Conference of Nicaragua on the 15th day of September in the year 2019, on the feast of our Lady of Sorrows.
Seal of the Episcopal Conference, and signatures of:
Cardinal Leopoldo José Brenes Solórzano
Mons. Juan Abelardo Mata Guevara
Mons. David Zywiec Sidor, OFM Cap.
Mons. Sócrates René Sándigo Jirón
Mons. Pablo Schmitz OFM Cap
Mons. Rolando José Álvarez Lagos
Mons. Carlos Enrique Herrera Gutiérrez
Mons. Jorge Solórzano Pérez