UK government calls for ‘immediate’ release of Bishop Rolando Alvarez in Nicaragua

A prominent Catholic peer has joined calls for the UK government to “act decisively” to release a prominent Catholic leader in Nicaragua.

On Monday The Lord Hylton, a retired cross bench peer, placed a written question to the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office. In it he asked the government to state what discussions they have had with the Nicaraguan government concerning the re-arrest and imprisonment Bishop Rolando Álvarez and three other priests, and the holding of two others under house arrest.

56-year-old bishop is the bishop of Matagalpa and apostolic administrator of the Diocese of Estelí. He was sentenced to 26 years in prison earlier this year on charges of undermining national integrity and spreading false news after he criticised the Nicaraguan government of President Daniel Ortega. Furthermore, he was stripped of his Nicaraguan citizenship, a move that has sparked international outrage.

Bishop Rolando’s imprisonment has drawn widespread condemnation from the Catholic Church and the global community, with human rights charities accusing the Nicaraguan government of targeting religious groups and their leaders. He has been held incommunicado since the visit in March by family members in the Jorge Navarro Prison, known as La Modelo, in Managua.

Since 2018, following anti-Ortega protests, the government has engaged in actions such as expelling Catholic nuns and missionaries and shutting down more than a dozen Catholic radio and television stations. These actions have been perceived by Ortega as attempts to destabilize his government in what he labels as a “coup.”

Despite international outcry, Bishop Rolando was once again sent back to prison after he rejected government proposals for exile in Italy. His refusal to leave Nicaragua and his unwavering commitment to his beliefs and principles have turned him into a symbol of resistance for many both within and outside the country.

Responding to Lord Hylton’s inquiry, Minister of State Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon confirmed that Fiona Bruce MP, as the Prime Minister’s Special Envoy for Freedom of Religion or Belief and Chair of the International Religious Freedom or Belief Alliance, had taken decisive action.

“On 28th June, the Prime Minister’s Special Envoy for Freedom of Religion or Belief and Chair of the International Religious Freedom or Belief Alliance, Fiona Bruce MP, called for the immediate and unconditional release of Bishop Alvarez and all others wrongly deprived of their freedom in Nicaragua, naming Bishop Álvarez as a prisoner of conscience,” said Lord Ahmed of Wimbledon.

“The UK continues to call for the release of Bishop Álvarez and all political prisoners in Nicaragua, including in conversations with the Nicaraguan authorities in Managua.

“The increasing suppression of political rights and the detention and expulsion of opposition politicians, activists and members of the clergy are further evidence of the serious democratic crisis in Nicaragua,” he said.

Story by William Kelly, The Catholic Network