Western churches may have tripped over themselves to keep up with cultural redefinitions of morality while bowing and scraping to shifting political winds… but persecution produces a different kind of Christian.
If you’re going to bring the gospel to country run by actual communists, you had better be ready for opposition. Jesus promised it would come, and governments like the one in Nicaragua are more than happy to do their part in fulfilling that promise. He also promised that He would be with us, and give us another Helper.
Funny thing about helpers… it’s only in a situation where you need some help, that you really notice you have one with you.
Pastor Jon Britton Hancock of a ministry called Mountain Gateway explains the situation:
In a press release on Wednesday, Mountain Gateway emphasized that it “does not understand the complexity of what is happening” and especially questioned why 9 of the 11 pastors arrested remain behind bars when the Nicaraguan government itself says they “are innocent, but claims they were under the control of the three U.S. citizens and two of the imprisoned Nicaraguan pastors.”
“It’s hard to understand this allegation because the government has viewed and approved our funding as it entered the country,” Hancock told Breitbart News this week. “We have documentation outlining our submission for approval of ministry operations funds and for those funds’ approval.”
The anti-Christian context of the political situation in Nicaragua suggests that the charges are part of a greater ambition to erase the faith from the country. In 2018, massive anti-communist protests erupted in the country, peaceful in nature and often backed by local priests in Catholic communities. Ortega and his wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo, responded with outsized violence, killing more than 300 people. The visible presence of the Catholic Church in supporting the protests led Ortega to declare the Vatican a terrorist organization and accuse it of attempting to stage a coup against his regime – even as the Vatican largely remained silent and the opposition voices were local Nicaraguan priests. — Breitbart
Since 2018, demonstrations against Ortega’s Sandinistas where local Catholics took a stand against the communist dictator, he has responded by banning traditional Catholic practices, shutting down schools, expelling an entire Catholic order, and exiling roughly 100 priests.
Catholics are not the only Christians being targeted.
The Catholics are not alone, however: Ortega has shut down more than 3,500 nonprofits and nongovernmental organizations since 2018, a large percentage of them Christian. Hancock told Breitbart News that the atmosphere for Christians in Nicaragua is fraught with tension, as many fear that one wrong word could send them to prison.
“Since 2018, the Nicaraguan government has revoked the registration of over 3,000 nonprofit organizations, so we are not in the boat alone,” Hancock said. “They have been particularly harsh to Christan organizations, both Catholic and evangelical.” — Breitbart
As a group, they have been serving the practical needs of Nicaraguans for a decade. But in the past year, with many other groups shut down, they felt a prompting to take the opportunity to share the gospel as well.
Hancock and his wife, Audrey, founded Mountain Gateway in 2009 and began their tenth year of service in Nicaragua in 2023. While the vast majority of their work there was humanitarian – natural disaster response, support for impoverished rural communities, and other basic charity services – the organization launched a new initiative in 2023: a series of mass evangelism events offering a path of Christian worship for seekers to experience the grace of God.
[…] “At every event, the presence of God was undeniable,” he continued. “I think they were so popular because God showed up at every time, and people encountered Him. Thousands of people were healed, delivered from spiritual oppression, and, most importantly, they declared Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.”
The campaigns were a success that garnered global attention: about 200,000 people attended several of the events; Mountain Gateway estimated that nearly one million people had joined the movement by November. The government not only tolerated the events but appeared to endorse them with the presence of several high-ranking officials. The tolerance for such displays of faith in Jesus contrasted sharply with the growing persecution of political dissidents, many of them prominent clergymen, and Ortega’s very public declaration of war on the Catholic faith. — Breitbart
And then… they announced plans for more events like this one. And the government cracked down… hard.
By the end of the year, Mountain Gateway announced that it had begun organizing 13 more campaigns throughout Nicaragua for 2024. Then – very suddenly – the government’s tolerance ended. The Ortega regime arrested the 11 Mountain Gateway pastors in mid-December, accusing them of money laundering and “organized crime.”
“I do think that the size of the Gospel Campaigns and the amount of people they drew could be seen as threatening to the government,” Hancock said, but emphasized, “Again, I’m not sure why they are targeting us after we have worked to maintain a respectful relationship and abide by their policies and laws.” — Breitbart
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