The Venezuelan government has temporarily suspended the issuing of missionary permits and visa after a prominent American evangelist suggested the assassination of its President, Hugo Chavez.
The chief of Justice Ministry's religious affairs unit in Venezuela, Carlos Gonzalez, said last Friday that the change in policy would stay in effect until the federal government could have tighter regulation of church activities in the country.
Permits "are suspended for a short time . . . while we organize a system to see what additional data we need for people coming into the country to preach," Gonzalez told Reuters.
The change in policy came four days after evangelist Pat Robertson said on his 700 club television program that We have the ability to take [Chavez] out and the time has come that we exercise that authority."
Robertson, a successful televangelist and the founder of Christian Broadcasting Network, has since publicly apologized for his comments.
We were already working on this, Gonzalez said, but these declarations have made us speed things up."
Furthermore, the Venezuelan government has reportedly intensified their investigation into the religious organizations in the country, according to mission agencies working in the area.
The government of Venezuela, which was already investigating mission organizations in their country, has put a hold on all visas for missionary activity and is intensifying their investigation, Sanford, Fla.-based New Tribes Missions reported on Sunday. NTM has several missionaries who have visas awaiting renewal.
New Tribes Mission missionary, Merrill Dyck, commented, We are putting out large articles in the two major newspapers here in Venezuela this week stating very clearly that we do not share [Pat Robertson's'] views, and in fact find them totally reprehensible and offensive."
The World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) similarly said last Wednesday that Robertsons statement represents the opinion of one individual and not that of the hundreds of millions of evangelical Christians around the world.
Robertson does not speak for evangelical Christians, said WEAs International Director, Geoff Tunnicliffe. We believe in justice and the protection of human rights of all people, including the life of President Chavez.
Mission agencies such as New Tribes Missions are asking believers to pray that the authorities involved in reviewing missionary activity in Venezuela will see that Robertsons comments do not reflect the opinions of the missionary community, and that the Gospel will be unhindered.