Believers in Bolivia may soon be facing a difficult decision. According to a report on Evangelical Focus, the left-leaning Bolivian government of President Evo Morales recently passed a law that could make it illegal for Christians to share their faith.
Article 88.11 of Bolivia’s penal code reads:
“Whoever recruits, transports, deprives of freedom or host 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.”
The way it’s worded, the law suggests that recruiting (sharing your faith) with another person could be considered illegal. Transporting a person to church or even to a religious camp could also be interpreted as an illegal act warranting jail time.
The law also equates sharing the Christian faith with armed rebellion.
Because of its vague wording, many are concerned Morales could use the law to clamp down on evangelicals. Bolivia has a population of about 11 million of which 78% are considered Roman Catholic, 19% (two million) Protestants and 3% non religious.
Though Bolivia’s constitution guarantees freedom of religion, Pastor Miguel Machaca Monroy, President of the National Association of Evangelicals in Bolivia, said the law does the exact opposite:
“It is deplorable that Bolivia has become the first Latin American country to persecute the rights of freedom of conscience and of religion…
“Now we have been put in a situation in which practicing the Gospel has been criminalized.”
According to Evangelical Focus, several journalists are also openly opposing the law calling it a severe restriction on Freedom of Speech.
So what are believers to do if the governing authorities prohibit preaching the Gospel?
This was exactly the problem the early church ran into shortly after the Day of Pentecost. In Acts 5, we read that they were preaching the gospel, healing the sick and attracting crowds. Jealous of their success, the authorities in Jerusalem ordered the apostles thrown in jail:
18 They laid hands on the apostles and put them in a public jail. 19 But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the gates of the prison, and taking them out he said, 20 “Go, stand and speak to the people in the temple the whole message of this Life.” 21 Upon hearing this, they entered into the temple about daybreak and began to teach. (Acts 5:18-21 NASV)
However, a curious thing happened. During the night an angel orchestrated a jail break and told the apostles to continue teaching at the temple. Yes, an angel of God broke the law and released the Apostles.
The next day, the authorities rounded up the disciples again and dragged them before the Sanhedrin and demanded they quit talking about Jesus.
But the Apostle Peter had a revelation on what had just happened. Though, they had been ordered to quit preaching, the apostles understood the message behind their prison escape.
Speaking before the Sanhedrin Peter said, “We must obey God rather than men” (v29).
Then a few chapters later, King Herod had Peter arrested a second time to appease the Jews. As the early church prayed through the night for the apostle, an angel broke Peter out of prison again (Acts 12:6-17).
Though this happened twice, we also have the big contradiction. Between those two jail breaks, Stephen was martyred for preaching the gospel (Acts 7:54-60).
It didn’t always go well for the disciples when they obeyed God instead of man.
- Evangelism could be banned in Bolivia: Evangelical Focus