CHICAGO — The civil unrest in Nicaragua is having an impact in Chicago as newly released political prisoners plan to attend a special mass in Buena Park.

Among those participating in the mass at 12:30 p.m. Sunday at St. Mary of the Lake Church will be a priest who was forced to leave his homeland after the government of embattled dictator Daniel Ortega threatened to throw the priest in prison with a prominent bishop.

“It’s a situation that’s very sad and very painful,” Father Erick Diaz said. “In our country, justice is not functioning.

Nicaraguan Catholic priests have endured harsh persecution at the hands of police for decades.

“You have to obey God before man,” Diaz said.

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This is why Nicaraguan priests and bishops have publicly criticized the brutal regime of Ortega, who is accused by human rights organizations of ordering beatings, imprisonment and death.

The end result, Diaz said, is an ongoing exodus of Nicaraguans to places like Chicago, Houston and Miami.

“To this moment, we’re getting close to reaching 2 million people who have abandoned Nicaragua,” Diaz said. “A product of the situation that threatens the country.”

Ortega’s justice system is cracking down on Bishop Ronald Alvarez, of Matagalpa, who was arrested for supporting illegal pro-Democracy demonstrations.

“They didn’t permit an independent lawyer,” Diaz said. “They gave him a lawyer.”

Diaz said Alvarez received a show trial and was sentenced to 26 years in prison.