New law in Bolivia threatens preaching and ‘witnessing’
The law bans people trying to ‘recruit’ others to take part in ‘armed conflicts or religious or worship organisations’. This could mean that street preaching is banned, even inviting someone to a Christian event could count as an offence.
The law would affect both Catholics and evangelicals who make up about 19 percent of the population, or two million people. Evangelical representatives are warning it could mean the end of religious freedom in the country.
“Will they denounce us if we bring a group of people to a Christian camp? Will I no longer be able to preach the Gospel on the streets?” asked pastor Miguel Machaca Monroy, President of the coalition of evangelical churches in the capital city.
The National Association of Evangelicals in Bolivia also criticised the new Penal Code and a statement said: “It is deplorable that Bolivia becomes the first Latin American country to persecute the rights of freedom of conscience and of religion, which are protected by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the declaration of San José de Costa Rica, and our Constitution.
“Christian evangelical churches in our country are institutions aiming to rehabilitate the human being, improve the moral, spiritual, ethical and social conditions of our citizens.
It added: “Now, we have been put in a situation in which practising the Gospel has been criminalised.”
The new law, found in Article 88.11 of the Penal Code, reads: “Whoever recruits, transports, deprives of freedom or hosts people with the aim of recruiting them to take part in armed conflicts or religious or worship organizations will be penalised five to 12 years of imprisonment.”