Several of the mourners gathered in Matagalpa to bid farewell to Eddy Montes wore face coverings. They had come to pay their respects to a man who was senselessly gunned down in a prison, by the very same state that had agreed to release him, and their face coverings clearly indicated that they, like many others, live with their fears.
Yet they had come to honor Mr. Montes.
Eddy Montes was 57 years old, a lawyer, a US Navy veteran, a father, a brother, a preacher, a resister, and he could not have had a better voice to eulogize his passing than Mons. Roger García.
García’s sermon was at times angry and at times hopeful. He spoke of the political culture of Nicaragua, with its vices, corruption, and clientelism, but he also talked about hope for the future, as long as Nicaraguans stop repeating the errors of the past.
That Nicaraguans must learn from experience was one of the main themes of Mons. García’s sermon, delivered a few feet from Eddy Montes’ open casket.
“We cannot forget the death of our brother, or the deaths of hundreds of people, or the people who were beaten and are still hurting. We cannot forget that, and we cannot forget them.”
Forgetting is not an option.
Remembrance was a crucial theme throughout the sermon, as Mons. García repeated in several occasions that the deaths, the imprisonment of so many, the disappearances, and the pain of others could not be set aside and dismissed.
“We cannot forget the death of our brother, or the deaths of hundreds of people, or the people who were beaten and are still hurting. We cannot forget that, and we cannot forget them,” he said.
If not forgetting the past was an important theme in the homily, preparing for the future also weighed heavily on his mind, as he set his sights on the upcoming election.
“We face an election in the near future”, said García, “and I ask of political movements, please, don’t go looking for candidates in the political dumpsters.”
Indeed, Mons. García linked the current state of the nation to the quality of the political candidates who are presented by their parties for public office. According to him, political candidates, by and large, do not understand their societal role, to serve the public, rather than to take advantage of their position.
“Political candidates are public servants. No one gives them ownership of a country; not to them nor to their family.”
Garcia added that public officials do not have “a license to exploit, steal, and massacre. You have a salary, and yet you still, and if that wasn’t enough, you abuse people even more.”
Citizens Must Wise Up.
Throughout the sermon, Mons. García spoke about the responsibility that citizens have to the nation, as an electorate. He spoke against misplaced loyalty and servility, and against following a candidate simply because of their gift for public speaking.
“Someone who can talk well, and also has an aptitude for being a thief, a criminal, or a scam artist,” does not make a good candidate for government.
In other words, Mons. García told voters that they needed to wise up and not compromise their principles.
“Open your eyes! don’t let yourself be misled because someone gives you a chicken, a shot of rum, a hog, or any other idiotic thing. People that do that have no shame and they slither on the ground like snakes.”
“We cannot be indifferent to the pain of others.”
Though Mons. García recognized that families who had lost loved ones, either to death, disappearance, or prison, were suffering, he exhorted the flock to be sensitive and caring to the pain around them.
“Every home and every family experience some form of pain. There is hunger, poverty, nakedness; bills that grow higher every day, and that cannot be paid. There are children and young people who cannot realize their dreams, and we cannot be indifferent to any of that.”
The sermon made several critical references to the Ortega-Murillo government, as Mons. García singled out government official statements, which usually contain lengthy passages about “love” and “Christianity,” for scrutiny.
“We must learn to love each other, but not with that love that is selfish, ambitious, squalid, meager, poor, and slithering that those people show for one another.”
García added that if government officials really loved “like God loves”, Nicaragua “would be different.”
“Let’s stop singing the national anthem”
With the nation in turmoil, Mons. García pondered the appropriateness of signing a national anthem that includes the verses, “The voice of the cannon no longer roars,” and “your glorious, bicolor banner is no longer stained with the blood of brothers.”
“When did it stop roaring?” — he asked — “that cannon is still shelling the sons of Nicaragua, everyone. The ogre still roars. And singing ‘your glorious, bicolor banner is no longer stained with the blood of brothers’… that is an embarrassment. I think we should stop singing the anthem for a while, until we are the Nicaragua God meant us to be, free.”
Don’t Return Bullet for Bullet
Mons. García’s message encouraged his audience to avoid retaliation. Instead, the flock must “pray” for those who have acted wrongly, so that “they feel shame for their bad behavior.”
However, Mons. Garcia was not offering a conciliatory message, to placate Ortega-Murillo sympathizers. On the contrary, he firmly showed his clear disapproval, if not outright distaste, for the Ortega-Murillo regime and its supporters, whom he called “trash. He asked, “Why do you think that they come armed to the teeth? because they expect you to do the same. Show them that they’ll always be what they are, trash, and that you are truly the children of god.”
Notes of hope throughout
Even though Mons. García dispensed harsh criticism throughout his sermon, he also encouraged the audience to remain hopeful. “We always have hope that better times are ahead. We can still hope that we will once again see a government that is balanced and prudent, rather than conniving, ambitious, and criminal.”
He added that justice, peace, and love would rain from “the heavens”, not human beings. “Justice, peace, and love will enter every home where they must go, and they will reach even the back corners of the yard.”
“No one we be left without what they deserve.”
Mons. García closed with words of advice for the young people of Nicaragua:
“Take care of yourselves; protect yourselves; pray. Prayer is powerful, and I say to you now that they will fall. They will fall.”