MISSION AND MINISTRY | On May 12, a dozen LMU faculty and staff were slated to board a plane to Nicaragua. It was to be their first step on a weeklong journey of exploration to foster greater attentiveness to the social reality of the poor, the marginalized, and victims of systemic injustice and greater awareness of the work on behalf of these populations undertaken at Jesuit universities in other parts of the world.
When that Managua-bound plane took off from LAX, however, those faculty and staff were not on board. The outbreak of violence in the wake of changes to the country’s welfare programs proposed by President Daniel Ortega resulted in the postponement of LMU’s annual faculty-staff immersion trip. While President Ortega later walked back his decision, the situation within Nicaragua has continued to deteriorate in recent weeks just as the death toll has continued to rise.
Among the reported casualties of the tensions between the increasingly authoritarian Ortega government and civilian protestors, many of whom have been students, was Álvaro Manuel Conrado Davila. As reported in the national Jesuit publication America, 15-year-old Álvaro was struck in the throat by a rubber bullet fired by police on protestors on April 20 and later succumbed to his injury. Prior to his death, he was a student at the Instituto Loyola, the Jesuit high school in Managua.
In the latest indication that volatilities are unlikely to subside soon, media outlets reported last week that in the early morning hours of May 27, para-police forces launched an attack on security guards stationed at the main entrance to the Universidad Centroamericana de Nicaragua, the Jesuit university in Managua. José Alberto Idiáquez, S.J., known to many of his friends and colleagues as Father Chepe, issued the following statement about the attack (translation courtesy of the Ignatian Solidarity Network):
The Central America University informs the Nicaraguan citizenry that in the early morning of Sunday, May 27, exactly at 12:45 a.m., two Hilux pickup trucks with hooded men in the back of one of them, shot with a 1-pound mortar at the two security men who watch over the principal entry of the university, the same one that was attacked and destroyed by stones last April 18. Even though they did not wound or kill our watchmen, the attempt was to do so, because of the amount of gunpowder used and because of how close they were.
The Central American University denounces this cowardly night attack of para-police forces that, sheltered by the impunity that the current misgovernment ensures, come using night hours to threaten and murder innocent civilians in the neighborhoods of the capital and other cities.
The UCA, faithful to its Christian principles, will continue demanding that our people demand: justice for the dozens of people murdered in the massacre of April, that continues in May; and a democracy that ensures all the citizenry of our country true peace and development, today at serious risk because of the irresponsibility of the current misgovernment.
Statements condemning the ongoing violence and calls for justice for the people of Nicaragua have been issued by the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities and the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities.
The LMU community joins in solidarity with the suffering citizens of Nicaragua, especially the many students who have been the special targets of violence, and with the worldwide community of Jesuit educators in praying for peace and justice in the region.