I was born in Nicaragua, but I have not been allowed to return to my country for over a year. I am a priest, but the government does not allow me to minister to my people. The Bishops' Conference of Nicaragua has met more than 10 times with the Sandinistas without being able to resolve my case. I sometimes feel as though I have exhausted all possibilities of international petitions. The Inter-American Human Rights Commission, the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops, and the Central American Bishops Conference have intervened on my behalf without success.
In the peace plan that Nicaragua has just signed, the Sandinistas have committed themselves to restore what they took away from their own people: freedom in all its expressions. I am not alone. There are many people of good will who are ready to go back and sow democratic values with great expectations and hope. While I have hope, I also remember the personal suffering that I endured at the hands of the Sandinistas: the effort to discredit me as a priest in August 1982; suspending television and radio broadcasting of the Sunday Mass of then Archbishop (now Cardinal) Obando y Bravo in 1981 and 1983 respectively; confiscation of the printing equipment, medicine, and records of the Archdiocese of Managua; and finally, preventing my return to Nicaragua in June 1986. Nevertheless, as a priest I am capable of believing in the possibility of change and of reconciliation.
A few Sundays ago during the Holy Mass we meditated on the powerful parable of the weeds in Matthew 13: 24-43. A man sowed weeds all among the wheat. In Nicaragua in 1979 the whole people of Nicaragua, all sectors of the population -- with international support -- full of hope and expectations sowed the good seed. Unfortunately, we, the people who favor democracy, the Christians, the international community, fell asleep, and the enemy came and sowed the weeds in the fields of Nicaragua. Today these weeds have grown and are at the point of choking the wheat.
In the parable, at the end, the wheat will be harvested and gathered into the barn, while the weeds will be collected and tied in bundles to be burned. I do not intend to establish a perfect parallel between Jesus' parable and our situation in Nicaragua, but there is no doubt that our enemy is absolutely real, and that that the weeds are growing and trying to choke the wheat. Moreover, in the international market of ideas the weeds are being sold under the guise of wheat.
The Central American peace plan, signed Aug. 7 in Guatemala, offers us the opportunity of sowing good seed in Nicaragua once again. We all believe that there must be good will when an agreement of such magnitude has been signed. After having lived through the first experience, however, we know that it is our duty not to fall asleep, to keep watch and prevent the enemy from frustrating our people's longing for peace and freedom. We need a minimum of assurance that what was taken from us will not again be stolen. There is the suffering of Nicaraguan citizens that needs to be recognized and understood in order to exact from the Sandinistas some clear signals that they are ready to rectify their efforts and fulfill what they have signed.
I ask that before Nov. 7 the Sandinistas restore the right of being able to live in one's own country and other natural rights inherent to the people. I call for the respect of church rights in Nicaragua -- including the right to own and utilize the means for mass communication. I await the reopening of the Catholic radio station (closed since Jan. 1, 1986), and the return of the Church's printing press (taken by Ministry of Interior officials in October 1985). The Sandinistas must also permit Bisho Pablo Antonio Vega and 18 expelled priests (including myself) to return to Nicaragua.
When the Sandinistas have provided the necessary guarantees, I invite Nicaraguan exiles to form a group that is willing to return to test the good will of the Sandinistas.
Our American friends can also help provide the assurances we need. You must not assume the good will of the Sandinistas. You must expect deeds, not simply words. You must not neglect Central American events in order to direct your attention to news in other parts of the world.
On Saturday, Aug. 15, a few Nicaraguans went in good faith to make sure that they could use their legitimate rights. They were repressed by Sandinista police equipped with electric prods and specially trained dogs to break up a peaceful street gathering. The police jailed the director of the Human Rights Commission, Dr. Lino Hernandez, and Dr. Alberto Saborio of the Lawyers Association. These men are not terrorists; they are honorable citizens, respected nationally and internationally, and they were sentenced -- without trial -- to 30 days imprisonment for making use of their legitimate constitutional rights.
The churches, labor unions, human rights groups and media must not abandon the people who have democratic ideals in Nicaragua. They must not be indifferent when individuals such as Dr. Lino Hernandez act to make use of their legitimate rights.
Monsignor Carballo, episcopal vicar in the archdiocese of Managua and formerly director of Catholic Radio (which is now closed), was denied re-entry to Nicaragua in June 1986, and has been living in Hyattsville.