Church leaders address months of unrest and violence in Venezuela
by Kathy Melvin | Presbyterian News Service
LOUISVILLE — After months of unrest in Venezuela and as the nation approaches national elections on May 20, the Synod of the Presbyterian Church of Venezuela met recently in Barquisimeto, Lara, and issued a pastoral letter that “aligns with our understanding of the citizenship we are called to practice in this land of grace where we dwell and where the Presbyterian Church of Venezuela ministers.”
Valdir França, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) World Mission area coordinator for Latin America and the Caribbean, represented the PC(USA) at the Synod meeting and was invited to participate in the discussions that led to drafting the letter.
Proclaiming a unified belief in the sovereignty of God, the Gospel of Jesus of Nazareth, the Word Incarnate and the values of love, peace, justice, hope, solidarity and fellowship, the group also denounced actions and beliefs they believe “have lead the country to a profound moral and ethical crisis.”
The Synod specifically voiced opposition to the “corruption at all levels that afflicts the nation and forms part of the structural sin that currently characterizes our nation.” It also called attention to the limited capacity for dialogue in some political sectors, continuous violations by other countries of Venezuela’s right to free self-determination without interference or intervention, all economic actions that hinder the ability of the Venezuelan people to live with dignity, all political, social, cultural and religious institutions that help promote a culture of death and all actions that threaten nature and sustainable development.
In its pastoral letter, the church committed itself to be “part of the solution, not part of the problem,” to continue formulating plans and projects that respond to the needs of the current Venezuelan context and to “promote in word and deed our faith and trust in this country, its potential and its capacity for resilience to rise above difficulty and overcome diversity.”
In 2016, Presbyterian World Mission and the Presbyterian Church of Venezuela (IPV) established the Venezuela Mission Network (VMN), which seeks to encourage mission partnerships between the US and Venezuelan congregations, including prayer, sharing faith stories and exchanging pastoral visits and resources. The PC(USA) and the IPV have been mission partners for more than a century. The hope is that the VMN will deepen that historic relationship, creating a space for mutual solidarity.
Also participating in the mission network is the Alliance of Presbyterian Reformed Churches in Latin America known by the Spanish acronym AIPRAL. Working with AIPRAL, the network will work to encourage other Latin American churches to stand in solidarity with Venezuela.
Dennis Smith, World Mission’s regional liaison for South America, helped to translate the pastoral letter into English and asks everyone to read it and circulate it widely. “We believe this letter brings a powerful, prophetic voice in an increasingly polarized world,” he said.
Smith also encourages churches, presbyteries and synods to invite the Rev. Zulema Garcia, IPV’s moderator to speak this fall as she participates as a PCUSA International Peacemaker. The Presbyterian Peacemaking Program makes it possible for leaders from partner denominations to visit PC(USA) entities each year to interpret issues of peace and justice.
Peacemakers are available for visits from September 21-October 5, 2018. Visits generally last 3-5 days, excluding travel time. The deadline to apply to host a peacemaker is July 1. For more information please see https://www.presbyterianmission.org/ministries/peacemaking/international-peacemakers/.
The translated pastoral letter can be downloaded at this link.
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