Missionary group says Nicaragua feeling prayers, and pressure, to free pastors

Missionary group says Nicaragua feeling prayers, and pressure, to free pastors

Missionary group says Nicaragua feeling prayers, and pressure, to free pastors

Texas-based missionary group Mountain Gateway continues to work diplomatic channels to effect the release of 11 Nicaraguan pastors and missionaries jailed in their home country on trumped up money laundering charges, group leader Britt Hancock says.

U.S. and foreign governments are slowly building momentum that Hancock hopes will put pressure on Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega.

Those efforts are important but what the pastors and their families need most, Hancock says, is prayer.

“The international pressure is really good, but Jesus is the only one who can move a dictator to do the right thing, so we really need lots of prayer,” Hancock said on Washington Watch last week.

Hancock said the 11 each face between 12 and 15 years in prison and fines in excess of $80 million.

Hancock and two other Americans also faced charges but were not in Nicaragua at the time the others were arrested. The group said it complied with all government rules to operate in Nicaragua. (See earlier story)

In December, Mountain Gateway said it was "saddened to hear that our registration as a ministry in Nicaragua has been canceled. In response to the allegations of money laundering, Mountain Gateway possesses documentation demonstrating that all funding has been managed appropriately."

In 2023, Nicaragua's government declared the Jesuit religious order illegal and ordered the confiscation of all its property. It confiscated the Jesuit-run University of Central America in Nicaragua, arguing it was a "center of terrorism."

Hancock, Britt (evangelist) Hancock

Since December 2021, at least 26 Nicaraguan universities have been closed and their assets seized by order of the Ortega government with a similar procedure. Seven of those were foreign institutions.

“It’s a case in name only. You just said Kangaroo court, I’m not sure any kangaroos even showed up to this one. No defense evidence was presented, there were no witnesses for the defense. They were actually convicted of a crime that they weren’t really tried for. All the witnesses were hearsay witnesses, second- and third-party witnesses on the part of the prosecution,” Hancock told show host Tony Perkins. “From this group, they want over a billion dollars. It’s not enforceable. It’s ridiculous.”

Sens. Rick Scott (R-Florida) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas) sent a letter to President Biden on March 14 expressing “deep concern” and naming Ortega and Nicaraguan Vice President Rosario Murillo for repeated religious freedom violations in Nicaragua.

The senators say they’ve seen an alarming increase in human rights abuses in Nicaragua since the pro-democracy protests of 2018.

They compared the government oppression to similar instances in Venezuela and Cuba.

“This administration must stand strong against the thugs who are oppressing the people of Nicaragua, as well as Venezuela and Cuba, and we must stand with the Nicaraguan people and pressure the Ortega-Murillo regime until religious freedom and human rights is restored, democracy upheld and the release of all political prisoners is secured,” the senators wrote.

Rep. Barry Moore (R-Alabama) is leading a similar effort on a House letter.

“We’re reaching out to all our contacts in the Department of State and in Nicaragua to let them know we will not stand for this. We’re going to continue to push this issue until we get it resolved in an appropriate manner,” Moore said in a video statement posted to X.

“We now have over 70 advocates in both houses and bipartisan advocates in Congress. We’ve run into a whole lot of people who care and are trying to do what they can. We’re continue to work in Washington to that end,” Hancock said.

European governments also involved

Similar efforts are under way in European governments.

“The Organization for American States has taken our case, the U.N.’s taken our case, the U.K. Parliament has a resolution that they’ve been working on condemning Nicaragua, and our case will be mentioned there. The European Parliament is working on something,” he said.

For now, the pastors remain jailed, as do the attorneys who represented them in what Hancock described as a sham trial with no evidence presented by the defendants.

Hancock is hoping things turn soon.

“We have indications from people on the ground in Nicaragua that (the government) is feeling the pressure,” he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.