Christian Missions Group Given 90 Days to Vacate Venezuelan Tribal Areas

The Venezuelan government has officially ordered a Christian tribal mission group to leave its tribal areas within 90 days.

New Tribes Mission, which was unexpectedly ordered by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez on Oct. 12 to leave the nation, has received confirmation that they must leave tribal areas within 90 days of Nov. 14. On Monday, the Ministry of Justice and Interior published a decree in the official Gazette of Venezuela, where laws and government orders are printed, declaring the revocation of NTM’s permission to work in tribal areas. NTM has had permission to work in indigenous territories since 1953.

Although the tribal mission group will be forced to leave tribal regions, the decree does not require NTM’s missionaries to leave Venezuela, but only indigenous missions in the states of Amazonas, Bolivar, Apure and Delta Amacuro.

President Chavez had accused NTM of "imperialist infiltration," exploiting the natives, living in luxury and not abiding to Venezuelan custom laws. In response, NTM Venezuelan leaders had attempted to communicate with President Chavez in hopes of correcting misunderstandings and continuing their work with the tribal groups in the country.

NTM plans to appeal the decree as missionaries ministering in the tribes “continue their work as long as possible while NTM Venezuela leaders pursue legal options,” said NTM in a released statement.

New Tribes Mission has planted tribal churches in more than 18 countries and has 160 personnel in Venezuela, including about 30 Venezuelans.