BY ISN STAFF | October 18, 2018

The Jesuit Conference Office of Justice and Ecology and the Ignatian Solidarity Network have issued a statement of continued solidarity with the people of Nicaragua on the six-month anniversary of nonviolent protests that led to the deaths toll of at least 300 civilians at the hands of police and government-sponsored paramilitary groups. The initial protests led to the deaths of more than two dozen people. Álvaro Manuel Conrado Davila, a 15-year-old student at Instituto Loyola, the Jesuit High School in Managua, Nicaragua, was among the victims killed while peacefully protesting on April 20.  

A protestor in Managua carries a cross. [Jorge Mejía Peralta]

The ongoing struggle began with nonviolent citizen protests on April 18 after the government announced changes to the nation’s social security system—an effort that was canceled by Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega on April 22 in response to the public outcry. However, the protests continued to arise in response to the broader context of the current government’s consolidation of power over several years. In 2011, the Supreme Court controversially ruled that President Ortega could run for reelection, and in 2014, a constitutional amendment eliminated limits to the number of terms a president could serve, as well as minimum vote requirements.

Today’s statement is also intended to demonstrate particular solidarity with Fr. Chepe Idiaquez, S.J., rector of the University of Central America Managua (UCA-Managua), a work of the Society of Jesus, who has been an integral part of the Catholic Church’s call for a national dialogue process, as well as the broader UCA-Managua community, which includes Jesuit priests, lay faculty, staff, students, and their families.  On the evening of May 27, the UCA-Managua experienced an attack by para-police and became a refuge for defenseless protestors on the evening of May 30 when more than 1,000 people sought safety within the gates of the university during an attack by para-police.

The statement comes as the Ignatian Solidarity Network, in partnership with the Jesuit Conference Office of Justice and Ecology, prepares to welcome a partner from the University of Central America in Managua, Nicaragua to speak at the Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice on Sunday, November 4 and meet with U.S. Congressional offices to share insights on the dire human rights situation in Nicaragua.

“Solidarity with our Nicaraguan brothers and sisters needs to come in many different forms amid this crisis,” says Christopher Kerr, executive director of the Ignatian Solidarity Network. “We are grateful to our partners at the UCA-Managua for joining us at the Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice and for sharing the stories of Nicaraguans facing repression and in particular those close to our Ignatian network at the UCA-Managua.”

For more than twenty years the Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice has brought together the Jesuit network and larger Church to address key human rights issues facing society, with a focus on injustice in Central America. Known as the largest annual Catholic social justice gathering in the U.S., the Teach-In attracts nearly 2,000 attendees from over 135 Jesuit and other Catholic universities, high schools, and parishes in the U.S., as well as Canada, Mexico, Spain, and El Salvador. While all ages are represented at the event, the majority of attendees are ages 16-22.

The full statement of the Jesuit Conference Office of Justice and Ecology and Ignatian Solidarity Network can be found here in English and Spanish.

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