LA PAZ, Bolivia – The National Association of Evangelicals in Bolivia (NAEB) has formed a National Energy Commission in response to the inclusion of Article 88.11 in the country’s new Penal Code.
“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 penalized 5 to 12 years of imprisonment.” – Bolivia Penal Code, Article 88.11
Evangelicals are concerned that the Article 88.11 violates the protections provided by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Declaration of San José de Costa Rica, and the Bolivian Constitution. A representative of the NAEB said, “we have been put in a situation in which practicing the Gospel has been criminalized.”
The widespread concern is that the article will be used to ban witnessing, street preaching, and inviting friends to worship services or other Christian events.
Article 4 of the Bolivian Constitution says, “The State respects and guarantees the freedom of religion and spiritual beliefs, according to their worldviews. The State is independent of religion.”
A pastor who heads a fellowship of Christian churches in La Paz asked, “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?”
Journalists have also expressed concern that Article 88.11 may be a first step toward hindering the freedom of speech.
There are an estimated two million evangelical Christians living in Bolivia, nearly 20 percent of the total population.
- Global Christian News, New law in Bolivia threatens preaching and ‘witnessing’
- Evangelical Focus, Evangelism could be banned in Bolivia
- Christianity Today, Evangelicals ‘deeply worried’ as Bolivia cracks down on Christian meetings