Nicaragua: “The Ortega regime has 100 evangelical pastors in prison”

Christians denounce the harassment of leaders and missionaries by the Nicaraguan government for fear of the influence of their social and spiritual work.

Pedro Tarquis , Evangelical Focus

MANAGUA · 13 MARCH 2024 · 17:11 CET

One of the massive evangelistic campaigns carried out in Nicaragua by the Mountain Gateway ministry.,
One of the massive evangelistic campaigns carried out in Nicaragua by the Mountain Gateway ministry.

Nicaragua is undergoing a deep political, social and liberties crisis since April 2018, which worsened after the controversial general elections of 7 November 2021, when Daniel Ortega was re-elected for a fifth term in office.

Ortega's wife, Rosario Murillo, has been vice president of Nicaragua in the four last terms in office. Their main contenders are in prison or in exile.

Following its policy of eliminating not only all dissent, but also all entities that unite Nicaraguan society, the government, in addition to fighting against the Catholic Church, has closed down many entities, keeping their assets for itself. Evangelical Christians have also been persecuted.

On 26 February, the regime closed another university (Unacad) and 13 associations (several of them evangelical). With those closures, over 3,550 organisations have now been dissolved following the popular protests that broke out in April 2018, many of them evangelical.


One hundred pastors in prison

John Britton Hancock, a North American missionary wanted by the Nicaraguan regime, is director of Mountain Gateway ministry. In an interview with Latin American news website Evangelico Digital, he denounced that “right now, there are a hundred pastors in prison”.

According to Juan Sebastián Chamorro, a former political prisoner and exile, “the dictatorship is directing its religious persecution against evangelicals. Difficult days are coming for evangelical pastors and missionaries”.

“Religious persecution has focused on the Catholic Church, but it is true that our evangelical brothers and sisters have suffered harassment and religious persecution, as we are seeing”, added Chamorro.

Open Doors included Nicaragua in 30th place on its 2024 World Watch List, saying that “hostility towards Christians in Nicaragua continues to intensify, with those who speak out against President Ortega and his government viewed as destabilising agents” .

“The situation has deteriorated significantly since 2018, when widespread protests broke out against the country’s dictatorial regime. Christians have been among those to raise their voice, but it’s coming at an alarming cost”, it adds.


Mountain Gateway ministry

One mediatic case has been that of the Mountain Gateway ministry, which the Ortega regime accuses of alleged money laundering, something that political opponents consider to be a simple case of religious persecution.

Lawyer and investigator Martha Patricia Molina pointed said she does “not think it is money laundering. This church has been operating in Nicaragua since 2013, why wait 10 years to start an investigation into money laundering?”

The unusual thing is that the pro-government media gave extensive coverage to the activities of Mountain Gateway, promoting different evangelistic campaigns called "Good News”.


Why attack Mountain Gateway?

The regime had no control over what happened at the events and concerts that Mountain Gateway ministry has held for several years.

But they became concerned when last 10 and 11 November a big event called the Great Good News Evangelistic Campaign Nicaragua 2023 took place. It was a night of revival, worship and evangelism, supported by 1,300 churches of almost all evangelical denominations. Around 200,000 people are thought to have attended the event.

Another concern of the government could be the fact that Mountain Gateway ministry brings the Gospel message and social aid to rural communities, having an influence on faith congregations in different municipalities.


Unfounded accusation against Mountain Gateway

The Mountain Gateway ministry came to Nicaragua in 2013. On 20 December 2019, they visited the police headquarters, where they prayed for the officers.

Ten years later, the authorities launched an investigation into the alleged crime of money laundering committed by twelve Nicaraguans and three US missionaries, one of them John Britton Hancock.

Mountain Gateway is financed by donations from Bruce Wagner, owner of an aviation company and owner of the evangelistic ministry "Shake the Nations" in the United States. This is done in a completely legal way.

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