Before Going, They Turned on All the Lights

Our church community has a strong connection to Nicaragua. In our small congregation, there are at least six of us who have lived and served in Nicaragua. Many, many more have visited as tourists or short-term missionaries, especially through Young Life and the Virginia Orphan Network. A few members of our congregation have traveled with David Blanchard to support his company's humanitarian efforts there. Those of us who love Nicaragua and its people have watched with horror and heartbreak as a crippling and violent political crisis has unfolded there over the last two months. 

Below is an excerpt from a piece Elisabeth Elliott wrote for the Blanchard's Coffee blog about the current crisis. Would you join us in praying for the physical safety of our friends there, for justice and basic human rights to be established and defended, and for a quick and diplomatic end to the current crisis? Also pray that our Nicaraguan brothers and sisters in Christ would find strength and endurance in the midst of unimaginable tragedy, for wisdom in how to proclaim the Gospel in word and deed during a confusing time, and for confidence to use their gifts, callings and privileges to contribute to the common good of their communities.


A political crisis has unfolded in Nicaragua over the last six weeks—have you heard about it? When the government announced a significant tax increase in mid-April, it was met with small-scale protests in Managua, primarily involving the elderly and a smattering of university students. Beginning on April 19, those protests were met with violent repression by the national police. For the Nicaraguan people, the images of their elderly beaten and bloody was the straw that broke the camel’s back. The nation erupted in protests against a government they perceive as corrupt and totalitarian. Since then, daily peaceful protests have been met by increasingly violent repression. This article gives a more in-depth analysis of how the events have unfolded.

When Americans think of Nicaragua, they often have in mind images from the civil war in the 80s. It may be difficult to comprehend that over the last three decades, Nicaragua has become the safest country in Central America, with extremely low rates of violent crime, a booming tourism industry and a growing national economy. As in many developing countries, day-to-day life was hard, but it was stable. Kids had math tests, played street soccer, went to birthday parties, and had bed times. The police gave speeding tickets and directed traffic.

Today, after over two months of unrest, the picture is very different. The police’s tear gas and rubber bullets were quickly replaced by live ammunition and automatic weapons. Armed paramilitary groups that are supportive of the government, along with the national police, have wrought unimaginably atrocious violence across the country, resulting in a lawless state of terror. Roadblocks make getting to school impossible for many students and their teachers. Essential items like food and gasoline are beginning to be difficult to access. Regular nightly violence against anti-government groups has everyone locked in their homes by 5pm daily and makes sleep hard to come by. Parents have the impossible task of trying to prepare their children for the possibility of their imminent death.

One friend and his wife are expecting their first child in the next few weeks. Because of the breakdown of the health system—all state hospitals are refusing to treat anyone who they perceive to be associated with protests, and private clinics are overwhelmed by the number of wounded people—they are preparing for a home birth and hoping for no complications.  Another friend, who has spent his entire life working tirelessly to pull his family out of abject poverty, and who just finished building with his own two hands a small home for his family, is confronted with the decision of whether to try to move his family to Costa Rica. They would be safe there, but he and his family would be financially destitute, beginning again the cycle of poverty he has worked so hard to overcome.

During my time living in Matagalpa, Nicaragua, this country and its people—in all their brokenness and complexity—found their way into my heart. This is “the country under my skin,” as one Nicaraguan author puts it. As I’ve watched these events unfold from my safe home in Richmond, Virginia, I’ve felt heartbroken, fearful, confused and indignant. I’ve also felt swelling pride that brings me to tears.

My Nicaraguan friends all tell me the same things. They feel sad, afraid, confused, vulnerable and full of uncertainty. They are all exhausted. And yet every single one is full of hope for the future. Nicaragua is not the same place it was two months ago, and Nicaraguans are not the same people. Whereas oppression had once buried their sense of dignity, empowerment, creativity, and hope for the future, things are different now. One friend says, “It’s like we’ve realized all that had been lost.” It is as they have spent decades living in the dark, and all of a sudden someone turned on all the lights.

I’ll end with this poem, written by renowned Nicaraguan poet, Gioconda Belli. At the time of writing, only nine days into the crisis, the reality of thirty victims was heart-wrenching. Now, two months later, over 280 citizens have been killed—most of whom are young university students—over 1,000 injured and hundreds “disappeared," and counting. “Before going, they turned on all the lights.”

 

 

THIRTY, AGAIN

Gioconda Belli—Abril 28, 2018

“Thirty that loved her like I do” -Augusto C. Sandino


I've seen Nicaragua come out of the corner of fear.
I've seen her defy the metallic forest,
stand up in the prohibited rotundas.
No more beatings, she's said.

 

 

She's said it in the face of tear gas.
She said it when they beat her.
She said it when the rubber bullet took out his eye,
when one by one they pulled out their finger nails,
when in the middle of a broadcast, they killed him.

April, the month of fire.
In the time of the barricade and ignominy,
liberation began.

It was a matter of pulling up the cobblestone of our hearts,
making the trench and saying no more,
enough,
denying cruelty, indifferent complicity.


I don't cry. My eyes just burn.
There were thirty again.
Thirty who, before going,
turned on all the lights.


Read the post in its entirety here.