Envío Digital
Central American University - UCA  
  Number 10 | Marzo 1982



Statement Of The Episcopal Conference Of Nicaragua

Envío team

We point out a distressing situation, namely, the events which have occurred in the Río Coco area on the border with Honduras, in the department of Zelaya, Nicaragua, since December 1981, and which have culminated, on the one hand, with the massive movement of entire Miskitu villages towards the interior of the national territory and, on the other hand, with the flight of a considerable number of people of this area to Honduran territory. These events have had painful effects upon all the inhabitants of this region: Miskitu, Sumu and Ladinos.

It is well known that the armed confrontations which occurred in that area in those months resulted in the deaths of many militia and soldiers of the Popular Sandinista Army, as well as many of their political adversaries and also some uninvolved citizens.

As a result of those events there are dozens of people detained and almost all the villages along the Río Coco have been evacuated by the army. Even if it is possible to explain militarily the massive evacuation of these villages, we nevertheless must lament, from a human and Christian point of view, the displacement of the indigenous groups who have resided in those regions from time immemorial. Their displacement has been both to the settlements established by the government in the interior of the Republic and to Honduran territory, where many have fled. Perhaps they were driven by fear or by the sometimes drastic measures by which the former were moved to the mentioned settlements.

As pastors of all our people, we deeply feel the pain provoked by the uprooting of our brothers and sisters from their region. and we want to demonstrate to them our sorrow, our concern, our fatherly affection and our pastoral care.


We recognize the right of the government authorities to use the measures necessary to guarantee the defense and integrity of the national territory. At the same time, we recognize the autonomy of the State and its right to determine the implementation of emergency military measures in all or part of the national territory in order to insure the defense of the country. Nevertheless, we wish to remind everyone that there are inalienable rights that may not be violated under any circumstances, and we state with sad surprise that in some concrete cases there haven been serious violations of the human rights of individuals, families, and even entire villages.

- The movement of people in military operations without previous warning nor preparatory dialogue.
- Forced marches lasting several days without sufficient consideration for the weak, the old, women and children.
- The mistreatment and the accusations of counter-revolutionary collaboration made against entire groups of the population.
- The destruction of dwellings, goods and domestic animals.
- Even the deaths of persons in circumstances which, much to our sorrow, remind us of the drama which other neighboring nations are living.

These events move us to denounce strongly such attitudes on the part of those who, having power and force, ought to be always the first to guarantee the observance of these human rights. We urge the competent authorities to apply disciplinary measures to avoid the repetition of such acts in the future.

Also, remembering that if the integrity of the national territory should be conserved as a historic right and duty of all Nicaragua, once this integrity is safeguarded, it must also be remembered that it is a right and duty to preserve the legitimate possession and use of the riches of the natural, traditional and cultural patrimony of the indigenous peoples of the Atlantic Coast. In them we find and recognize with pride not only the ancestry of the race, but also the identity of our ancient pre-hispanic nationalities.


After having briefly presented these events that indicate a situation of lack of respect for the dignity of the human person and a violation of his/her human rights, we, as pastors, in open solidarity with the Miskitu, Sumu, and Ladinos of our Atlantic Coast, request from the competent authorities an objective investigation and adequate measures to promote peace and tranquility through an increase of justice in the region.

We encourage you, our Miskitu, Sumu and Ladino brothers and sisters, to make a valiant effort to conserve, cultivate and defend the Christian faith and its consequent hope, in which you have been evangelized with so much love and labor for so many years.

For our part, as Catholic bishops, we will do everything possible to ensure that the task of evangelization does not stop, assuring you of the periodic visit of your Bishop, priests, deacons and religious. The Episcopal Conference, in communion with our brothers and sisters of the Atlantic Coast, asks for the prayers of the faithful and for their generosity in the collection that will be taken up in all the churches in the country and at all the masses that are celebrated on Sunday, March 7, the second Sunday of Lent.

In decreeing this a day of prayer and collaboration with our brothers and sisters on the Atlantic Coast, we are conscious that, upon making this denouncement, we are not unaware of the efforts made by the Government to attend to the victims in that region. Our organization, Caritas of Nicaragua, should collaborate in accordance with the desires of the Episcopal Conference. We ask non-ecclesial institutions or organizations to help our brothers and sisters on the Atlantic Coast. We ask the Government to authorize facilities so that these services may be directly rendered to those in need.

Finally, faced with the impossibility of being able to directly help those who for the same reasons are found in Honduran territory, we appeal to the charity of our brothers of the Episcopal Conference of Honduras and to the fraternal generosity of their ecclesial institutions.

Under the maternal protection of Mary Immaculate to whose heart our country is consecrated, we make public this message in Granada on the eighteenth day of February of 1982.

The Episcopal Conference of Nicaragua

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