The head of the Baptist World Alliance has criticized a new law in Bolivia that various faith organizations say could curtail religious freedom.
BWA General Secretary Elijah Brown wrote Bolivia’s legislature Jan. 17 voicing concern that ambiguity in the country’s new penal code “could lead to unintended restrictions on religious freedom and to the direct persecution of churches and individuals of faith.”
New legislation in Bolivia states: “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 7 to 12 years of imprisonment.”
Various Christian news outlets described the law as a ban on proselytizing. The National Association of Evangelicals in Bolivia said it is “deeply worried” about the law, saying it could be used to ban evangelism or inviting someone to a Christian event.
Brown, who took over Jan. 1 as head of the 238 member-body Baptist World Alliance, asked lawmakers in Bolivia to either modify or repeal the law. The 250-church Bolivian Baptist Union and smaller Baptist Convention of Bolivia are among of BWA members.
Brown, previously a professor at East Texas Baptist University and executive vice president of the 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative, expressed hope “that freedom of religion and expression will be strengthened” in Bolivia and said Baptists “are praying “for the ongoing well-being of the country.”