IRI Honors Bishop Rolando Álvarez of Nicaragua with John S. McCain Freedom Award

Washington, DC – The International Republican Institute (IRI) honored Catholic Bishop Rolando José Álvarez Lagos of Nicaragua with its John S. McCain Freedom Award, IRI’s highest recognition, for his unwavering commitment to religious freedom. Father Benito Martínez received the award from IRI Board Member Senator Marco Rubio (R-Florida) on behalf of Bishop Rolando Álvarez.

The Ortega regime has severely persecuted peoples of faith, including nuns, priests, Catholic media, and universities. Both Father Martínez and Bishop Álvarez were imprisoned and severely mistreated while in custody. Both men are living in exile. 

IRI Chairman Senator Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) addressed the audience with powerful reminders of what won the Cold War and why America must continue to support the advancement of democracy and religious freedom worldwide.

“The United States prevailed in the Cold War with the Soviet Union, through the principle of peace through strength, building allies and partners, and a commitment to individual and religious liberty,” said Sullivan. “If we support democratic governments and the expansion of free societies, it is imperative that, like President Reagan did, we prioritize religious liberty when we’re talking about human rights.”

IRI President Dr. Daniel Twining provided a strong reminder that while democratic activists and basic freedoms are under assault from dictators around the globe, there is reason for hope and optimism.

“Nearly 100 countries have held or will hold elections this year,” said Twining. “No election is perfect, but billions of voters turning out to hold their leaders accountable and elect new ones represent a compelling argument that autocracy does not own the future…. While tyranny produces oppression, conflict, and poverty, democracy advances freedom, peace, and prosperity.”

Father Martínez thanked the International Republican Institute for its advocacy in the fight for freedom and accepted the award on behalf of all Nicaraguans who desire to live in a free and democratic society. After presenting the award, Senator Rubio told attendees that totalitarianism must be relentlessly fought, and that freedom of religion is fundamental to a healthy democratic society. “Every human being has dignity and certain inalienable rights endowed by our creator,” said Rubio. “The concept of freedom and liberty is not a political one, but a spiritual one.”

About the Freedom Award

Since 1995, the International Republican Institute’s Freedom Award Celebration has honored individuals whose commitment to the advancement of democracy, freedom, and human liberty has created opportunity for millions of people around the world. As IRI’s highest honor, the Freedom Award exemplifies the goals and accomplishments of strengthening democracy for a safer, more secure world. 

About Bishop Rolando José Álvarez Lagos

IRI honored exiled Catholic Bishop Rolando José Álvarez Lagos, in recognition of his unwavering advocacy for religious and political freedom in Nicaragua. In 2022, the Ortega regime falsely convicted Bishop Álvarez of treason and sentenced him to over 26 years in prison, until his release in early 2024 at Pope Francis’ urging. He is now living in exile in the Vatican alongside fifteen other Nicaraguan priests who were also political prisoners. Bishop Álvarez’s inspiring example transcends national boundaries, making him a beacon for freedom fighters around the world.

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