In a new penal code authorized in December, the socialist Bolivian government has placed severe limitations on religious freedom, effectively making evangelism illegal in the South American nation.
Article 88.11 of the code states that “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,” according to a translation by Evangelical Focus, the media arm of the Spanish Evangelical Alliance.
The new law puts the liberty of Boliva's 2 million evangelical Christians, nearly 19% of the total population, as well as its massive Catholic population at serious risk.
The new law also contradicts Article 4 of the Code which states, “The State respects and guarantees the freedom of religion and spiritual beliefs, according to their worldviews. The State is independent of religion”.
The National Association of Evangelicals in Bolivia criticized the law, saying, “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”, the evangelical organization continued. “Now, we have been put in a situation in which practising the Gospel has been criminalised”.