Anyone caught evangelising in Bolivia could be imprisoned for five to twelve years.
Church leaders report that a new law has been passed and it states that anyone caught telling others about their faith could face five to 12 years in prison.
The law titled Article 88 says, “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 five to 12 years of imprisonment.”
This is according to a translation by Evangelical Focus, a media initiative of the Spanish Evangelical Alliance.
This new law, which went into effect on December 15, 2017, affects approximately 2 million evangelical Christians in Bolivia.
This new law has been met with some resistance and criticism particularly because the Bolivian Constitution specifically protects religious freedom and freedom of worship.
The National Association of Evangelicals in Bolivia (ANDEB) issued a statement. It read: “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. Now, we have been put in a situation in which practicing the Gospel has been criminalized.”
An additional statement said the code “is imprecise, ambiguous, badly written, contradictory and its punitive power can constitute state abuse.”
Pastor Miguel Machaca Monroy, President of the coalition of evangelical churches in the capital city 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?”
On January 21, a national day of prayer and fasting was observed by Bolivia’s evangelical leaders.
This was their attempt to protest against their socialist government.
This anti-evangelism law has been revoked by the president. Bolivian President Evo Morales says he is revoking this law because he wants to "avoid confusion."
He said, "The national government will never approve laws against the Bolivian people," adding that opposition forces are "conspiring" and "destabilizing the country with misinformation and lies."
President Morales promises to listen to proposals "of all sectors of the country" before making a new penal code.