A reflection from a Venezuelan Christian leader in the midst of the Constitutional process in the country
The Evangelical Pentecostal Union of Venezuela (UEPV, acronym in Spanish) has the challenge of being a witness as a church in the midst of the political turmoil that has affected Venezuela. While the Venezuelan government called for a National Constituent Assembly (ANC, acronym in Spanish) to address problems like poverty, public services, ecology, or culture, the right-wing opposition alleges that the initiative has the purpose of perpetuating President Nicolás Maduro term without being accountable on general elections.
Protests have filled the streets for the last four months following the Supreme Court’s decision to strip power from the opposition controlled National Assembly (legistlative power was returned two days later, but protests persisted), and a sustained economic crisis has created tension among the people. Violence has occurred at the hands of those opposed to Maduro and at the hands of supporters, leaving over 100 Venezuelans dead.
The Reverend Elida Quevedo, one of UEPV´s Bishops, has mentioned some of the issues that were at stake in the ANC: “At this moment in Venezuela´s history, the country needs to deepen the Social State of Law and Justice, conferring constitutional legitimacy to the public and social policies implemented following the model of “Missions.” She also argues that Venezuela “needs a new economic model since the current model depends primarily on oil and suffers from market fluctuations. That instability creates seasons of financial shortage impacting the availability of certain goods and services for the people. The country needs an initiative that can resolve the current political conflict that threatens the peace of the nation.”
Bishop Quevedo stated that the conflict between the government and the opposition is confusing. “The opposition called for a similar process in 2013. At that time, they requested a Constitutional Assembly to redefine all public institutions, as well as to even recall people at office. Then, during the past year, the opposition expressed their intention to convene a Constituent Assembly and even reached to advance in that direction, but finally, they did not continue with this process. What I am clear is that the people do not want violence and wishes to have a peaceful and democratic solution to this situation.”
This week, U.S. Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, announces sanctions against Venezuelan President Maduro because of the election of the ANC on July 30th. Additional sanctions will cause hardships for those who are already suffering as a result of the economic challenges.
Bishop Quevedo ended her statement with the following words: “Our call, as a Church, is the same as when our movement was founded by Federico Bender and Exeario Sosa Luján, among others. For me, it is clear that times are sealed by this prophetic slogan “Peace in justice and glory in service to God” (Baruch 5: 4). Serving the poor, feeding the hungry, visiting the one who is imprisoned, clothing the ragged, to welcome the stranger and the immigrant, to minister to the sick, all that is to serve God, as Jesus said (Matthew 25: 31-40). Moreover, this is what we want to do in this country of Bolivar among all people that affirm the fullness of life on this nation.”