INDEPENDENT NEWS

Cablegate: Evangelical Church Leaders Seek More Recognition

Published: Tue 11 Jul 2006 02:09 PM
VZCZCXYZ0026
RR RUEHWEB
DE RUEHMU #1520/01 1921409
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 111409Z JUL 06
FM AMEMBASSY MANAGUA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 6945
INFO RUEHZA/WHA CENTRAL AMERICAN COLLECTIVE
UNCLAS MANAGUA 001520
SIPDIS
SENSITIVE
SIPDIS
DEPT FOR WHA/CEN, DRL JFARRAR AND NTONGOUR
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM PREL NU KCRM KDEM KWMN
SUBJECT: EVANGELICAL CHURCH LEADERS SEEK MORE RECOGNITION
BY NICARAGUA'S POWER BASES
REF: MANAGUA 1333
1. (U) On June 23, foreign affairs officer and FSN met with
Reverend Roberto Rojas, Vice President of the National
Council of Evangelical Pastors and Reverend Mauricio Fonseca,
of the Nicaraguan Evangelical Alliance (AENIC), to discuss
human rights and democracy issues of interest to Nicaragua's
Evangelical Protestant churches. Alleging unequal treatment
in relation to Catholic clergy, these Evangelical church
leaders seek more access to Nicaragua's President and claim
that their followers are a powerful demographic and political
force in contemporary Nicaraguan society. Pastor Fonseca
claimed that his organization encompasses the great majority
of evangelical churches in the country. AENIC, which was
founded in 1990, is affiliated with the World Evangelical
Alliance, headquartered in the United States and represents
Nicaragua's Evangelical population. Both Fonseca and Rojas
indicated that they have close contacts with U.S. Evangelical
church leaders.
ALLEGED DISCRIMINATION BY CATHOLICS AND PUBLIC OFFICIALS
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2. (SBU) Fonseca and Rojas opined that while the
constitution of Nicaragua proclaims freedom of religion, in
practice Evangelical churches "suffer discrimination" because
the Roman Catholic Church continues to occupy an "important
place" in society. Fonseca stated that the "traditional"
Roman Catholicism views Evangelicals as "neophytes" and
treats them as second-class citizens. The reverends alleged
that while Evangelical clergy are subject to luggage and
document inspections upon returning from abroad, Catholic
clergy are never detained. They also claimed that many
public officials will not accept Evangelical church baptismal
certificates as sufficient identification documentation,
although Catholic baptismal certificates are regularly
accepted for these purposes. Both averred that the Catholic
Church, in recognizing that it has lost many adherents to
Evangelical churches, is now attempting to recover these
losses and discriminating against Evangelicals. They further
claimed that Catholic schools will not accept students who
are Evangelical Protestants (NOTE: Reliable sources within
Nicaragua dispute the accuracy of these assertions. END
NOTE.)
CONTESTING OFFICIAL FIGURES REGARDING THEIR NUMBERS
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3. (SBU) Fonseca and Rojas explained that their churches
arose directly out of the missionary efforts of many U.S.
Evangelical pastors over eighty years, resulting in a large
Evangelical presence among Nicaragua's population today.
They asserted that the national population is 30%
Evangelical. When queried about the National Census
Institute's (INEC) 2005 results reporting that 20% of the
national population was Evangelical, Fonseca and Rojas
disputed these figures. They alleged that INEC had not
visited every remote place in the country-side where they
asserted many vibrant evangelical communities are found. The
AEN is conducting its own census of the nation's Evangelical
population, they explained.
DISPLEASED THAT OTHERS SEEM TO HAVE MORE ACCESS
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4. (SBU) Despite substantial Evangelical church membership,
the pastors maintained that the Roman Catholic Church remains
predominant in decision-making in the local political scene.
When asked for examples, the pastors referred to recent
political statements by retired Archbishop Cardinal Obando y
Bravo. However, they acknowledged that the Cardinal's public
partisan political views appear to be his own and do not
necessarily reflect the Catholic Church's position on the
upcoming elections or the presidential candidates.
SEEKING MORE EVANGELICAL REPRESENTATION IN THE GOVERNMENT
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5. (SBU) The pastors asserted that the Evangelical church in
Nicaragua does not endorse any single political party and
that avowedly Evangelical parties, such as "Camino
Cristiano" and "Alternativa por el Cambio," do not represent
their churches. While stating that they do not necessarily
encourage Evangelical church leaders to hold positions in the
National Assembly, the reverends noted that currently the
presence of only one FSLN, one PLC and one MRS religious
leader in the legislature was insufficient given the
demographic size of the evangelical community. They prefer
Assembly deputy Delia Arellano, a leading lay evangelical, to
be given a higher profile in the future and suggested that
presidential candidate Eduardo Montealegre consider publicly
supporting this (NOTE: Arellano is ninth on Montealegre's
Assembly list of national deputies. END NOTE.)
NICARAGUA NEEDS A GOD-FEARING AND HUMBLE LEADER LIKE
PRESIDENT BUSH
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6. (SBU) The reverends were displeased that President
Bolanos did not fulfill his campaign promise to Evangelicals
to establish a secretariat for religious affairs to represent
Evangelical Church interests, and they want the future
president to establish this office. The reverends believe
that the next Nicaraguan president should be "humble and fear
God." When asked if they recognized these characteristics in
any political leader, they referred to a 2002 meeting they
attended at the U.S. capitol where President Bush prayed and
spoke out against abortion and same sex marriage as an
example of a humble and god-fearing leader. They also
appreciated Ambassador Trivelli's willingness to listen to
them and reiterated their position that the Evangelical
churches have power that must be recognized.
TRIVELLI
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