Authorities in Nicaragua have jailed 9 pastors for greater than a month on fees that they fashioned a part of a felony operation together with three U.S. missionaries, in line with a mission group.
The Nicaraguan Attorney General’s workplace has charged the three U.S. missionaries of Texas-based Mountain Gateway and 11 Nicaraguans with forming a part of a “felony construction” concerned in cash laundering and arranged crime and has reportedly issued warrants for his or her arrest.
“Mountain Gateway wish to publicly state it denies these allegations, and it’s saddened by this case,” the group stated in an announcement. “These fees are primarily based on misguided info, and Mountain Gateway will do every little thing in its energy to resolve this by diplomatic channels.”
Mountain Gateway, which operates within the Central American nation as Puerta de la Montaña, stated prosecutors believed the Nicaraguan pastors have been underneath the course of the mission group’s Jon Britton Hancock, Jacob Britton Hancock and Cassandra Mae Hancock, all U.S. residents, and Nicaraguans Walner Omier Blandón Ochoa and Maricela de Fátima Mejía Ruiz.
“While the Nicaraguan authorities says the [Nicaraguan] pastors are harmless, the pastors have been imprisoned for over a month with no authorized illustration or contact with their households,” Mountain Gateway acknowledged. At the identical time, it added that the federal government has since “allowed a lawyer to be appointed to signify the Mountain Gateway Nicaraguan pastors, however has not offered their authorized counsel with the charging paperwork or any recordsdata to organize a protection.”
Mountain Gateway acknowledged it had diligently adopted all authorized necessities within the U.S. and Nicaragua and had documentation displaying the Nicaraguan authorities authorised all funds coming into the nation and ensured they have been used appropriately.
“Nicaragua has revoked the registration of a whole lot of nonprofit and faith-based organizations within the final 5 years, together with most just lately, expelling quite a few members of the Catholic Church and seizing church property,” the group acknowledged. “In these instances, the federal government usually consists of the cost of cash laundering or different monetary fees as the rationale for revocation.”
Mountain Gateway held eight massive evangelistic occasions in Nicaragua final yr underneath strict accounting by in-house workers and funds opinions by the Nicaraguan authorities, the group acknowledged.
“No members of Mountain Gateway have personally profited from funds despatched to Nicaragua for ministry features,” it stated.
The missions group introduced on Dec. 22 that the Nicaraguan authorities had canceled its registration as a ministry within the nation.
Nicaragua shut down, confiscated or destroyed 347 Christian buildings from Oct. 1, 2022, to Sept. 30, 2023, the fourth highest worldwide behind solely China, India and Nigeria, in line with Open Doors’ 2024 World Watch List (WWL) of the nations the place it’s most tough to be a Christian. Nicaraguan authorities detained 38 Christians throughout this era, in accordance the WWL report.
Open authorities hostility towards Christians through the interval resulted in Nicaragua vaulting from fiftieth place the prior yr to thirtieth among the many 50 nations the place persecution of Christians is worst. The WWL report additionally cited Nicaragua’s legislative restrictions on non secular freedom and the arrest or exile of spiritual leaders.
Mountain Gateway stated in its press assertion that its U.S. pastors “don’t have anything to cover and have requested to have an lawyer appointed to signify them on this authorized course of.”
“Mountain Gateway doesn’t perceive why that is occurring in a rustic that it loves dearly and has labored steadfastly to abide by the federal government’s rules and legal guidelines,” the group acknowledged. “While Mountain Gateway’s lawyer and authorized staff are advising Mountain Gateway to belief the authorized system, it does have questions. It seems this may very well be extra politically motivated than legally motivated.”
Imprisoned have been 9 of Mountain Gateway’s Nicaraguan pastors: Marcos Sergio Hernández Jirón; Harry Lening Rios Bravo; Manuel de Jesús Ríos Flores; José Luis Orozco Urrutia; Álvaro Daniel Escobar Caldera; Juan Carlos Chavarría Zapata; Juan Luis Moncada; Orvin Alexis Moncada Castellano; César Facundo Burgalin Miranda.
The AP reported that the Prosecutor’s Office stated in a press assertion that 11 Nicaraguans have been charged, together with the authorized consultant and monetary manager of Puerta de la Montaña. Prosecutors claimed that detailed investigations into cash laundering confirmed the 13 nationals have been allegedly concerned in showing as representatives within the buy of actual property.
The authorities of Daniel Ortega has closed or dissolved 342 non secular organizations, together with 256 Evangelical Christian associations, 43 Catholic ones and 43 belonging to different church buildings, in line with the AP, citing a December report by Nicaragua Never Again Human Rights Collective. Ortega has been president since 2007, after having beforehand led the nation from 1979 to 1990.
The authorities has set a listening to for the Nicaraguan pastors on Jan. 26.
Mountain Gateway Order, Inc., primarily based in Dripping Springs, Texas, states on its web site that it focuses on discipling nationwide leaders by home church buildings and company worship and coaching nationwide pastors to succeed in the misplaced of their nation. Mountain Gateway additionally runs a ministry coaching college within the United States to show believers to take the Gospel into any context or tradition.
“Since 2013, Mountain Gateway has served the residents of Nicaragua by discipleship, church planting, feeding and clothes these in want, offering meals, water, gear, and restoration help throughout pure disasters, and sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ in mass evangelistic campaigns,” the group stated in its assertion.