Religious freedom is under threat in many parts of the world today. Indeed, “a stunning 83 percent of the world’s population live in nations where religious freedom is either threatened or even banned,” said Vice President Mike Pence in a speech at the Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom.
The victims of religious persecution face economic sanctions. They’re often arrested and imprisoned. They’re the target of mob violence and state-sanctioned terror. And all too often, those whose beliefs run counter to their rulers face not just persecution but death, warned Mr. Pence.
“The list of religious freedom violators is long,” he said, “their crimes and oppressions span the width of our world.” In the Western hemisphere, the Nicaraguan government of Daniel Ortega is virtually “waging war on the Catholic Church,” said Vice President Pence.
“For months, Nicaragua’s bishops have sought to broker a national dialogue following pro-democracy protests that swept through the country earlier this year. But government-backed mobs armed with machetes, and even heavy weapons, have attacked parishes and church properties, and bishops and priests have been physically assaulted by the police.”
Father Raul Zamora is the pastor of Divine Mercy Church and is a “hero of the faith,” said Mr. Pence. Recently, the Ortega government laid siege to his church after more than 200 students sought shelter there, and two students lost their lives. They joined the more than 350 courageous Nicaraguans who’ve died for the cause of freedom this year alone.
Speaking to Father Zamora and the Nicaraguan people, Vice President Pence said, “Our prayers are with you, and the people of America stand with you for freedom of religion and freedom in Nicaragua.”