Florida missionaries ordered out of Venezuela

October 13, 2005

Despite their fervent prayers for deliverance from the hateful edicts of a bunch of natives who obviously don’t know what’s best for themselves, God has allowed Hugo Chavez to oust the proselytizers who seek to foist the wisdom of Jesus as interpreted by a bunch of wealthy white colonialists into the lives of the indigenous peoples of Venezuela.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez threatened to kick some Christian U.S. missionaries out of the country Wednesday, as he presented property titles to indigenous groups who he said had been robbed of their ancient homelands.

Hundreds of people from various indigenous groups gathered in this small village in southern Apure state for a ceremony recognizing their ownership of thousands of hectares of land.

”We are doing justice,” said Chávez, dressed in military fatigues and a red beret. “We can now start to say that there is a homeland for the Indians.”

Chávez said that he was also ordering the expulsion of a group of Christian missionaries working with indigenous groups, called the New Tribes Mission, accusing the Sanford, Florida-based religious organization of cultural imperialism.

”The New Tribes are leaving Venezuela. This is an irreversible decision that I have made,” said Chávez. “We don’t want the New Tribes here. Enough colonialism!”

The New Tribes Mission specializes in evangelism among the 3,000 indigenous groups in the world’s remotest tracts, places that remain isolated from the outside world.

It has assembled one of the largest missionary forces with 3,200 workers and operations in 17 nations across Latin America, Southeast Asia and West Africa.

Chávez accused the group of sharing ”sensitive, strategic” information about Venezuela with the CIA, without elaborating. He also accused the missionaries of constructing luxurious camps next to impoverished Indian villages and circumventing Venezuelan customs authorities as they freely flew in and out on private planes.

”These violations of our national sovereignty has to stop,” he said.

Chávez indicated the group would not be expelled immediately, but given time to leave.

Nita Zelenak, a New Tribes representative reached by telephone, declined to comment on Venezuela’s decision or say how many missionaries were based here.

Chavez held the ceremony on the holiday known to many as Columbus Day, marking the arrival of European explorers in the present-day Bahamas on Oct. 12, 1492. Chávez’s government renamed the holiday ”Day of Indigenous Resistance” three years ago.

Chávez, a nationalist who says he is leading a ”revolution” for the poor, often praises Indian chiefs who stood up to their Spanish conquerors in the centuries after Christopher Columbus reached Venezuela in 1498.

Columbus, eh?

Christopher Columbus made his first landfall on the South American continent in 1498 in what today is the country of Venezuela. Five hundred years later, the people who greeted him are thriving and enjoying new rights and prestige under Hugo Chávez’s Revolutionary Boliviarian government. Looking at recent political changes in Venezuela from the point of view of its original inhabitants helps reveal the nature of Chávez’s government, as well as highlighting why the elite see him as such a threat to their previously hegemonic control over the country.
……

In Venezuela, on the other hand, rich resources allowed a disperse population to thrive based on hunting, gathering, and agricultural production. Without a tradition of social stratification leading to an easily exploitable subjugated population accustomed to providing labor and tribute to an elite class, the Spanish made slower progress in colonizing the region than they did in Mexico or the Andes. Instead, the Europeans turned to Catholic missions to “civilize” the aboriginal population and began to import slave labor from Africa to work on their plantations. Indigenous leaders such as Guaicaipuro led the resistance to European encroachments onto their lands, while western penetration pushed them further to the margins.
……

Today, Venezuela has a small but diverse Indigenous population that mostly lives far from the capital city of Caracas on the country’s border regions with Guyana, Brazil, and Colombia. Numbering only about 1.5 percent of Venezuela’s 23 million people, they are divided into about 28 different ethnic groups. The largest group, with about 200,000, are the Wayúu (also known as the Guajíra) who live in the state of Zulia on the Colombia border. Smaller groups live in the southern and eastern states of Amazonas, Bolívar, Delta Amacuro, Anzoátegui, and Apure. In addition to the Wayúu, these groups include the Warao, Pemón, Añú, Yanomani, Jivi, Piaroa, Kariña, Pumé, Yekuana, Yukpa, Eñepá, Kurripakao, Barí, Piapoko, Baré, Baniva, Puinave, Yeral, Jodi, Kariná, Warekena, Yarabana, Sapé, Wanai, and Uruak.

They are all prime targets for civilization by New Tribes, even though it can be very frustrating dealing with ignorant savages who ignore the alarms on their Palm Pilots.

Carlos, who is missionary Fran Cochran’s co-worker in translating Scripture into the Maquiritare language, was saddened that some of his people haven’t learned that time does have a place.

When some church leaders failed to show for the opening day of the seminar, Carlos said, “If they knew the day and time that Jesus was coming back, they wouldn’t be ready.”

But seminar leaders were impressed by one group of church leaders from Mawashiña. They walked more than five days and then traveled another two days by boat to reach the seminar on time.
……

Pray for the growth of the Maquiritare church, and pray that they will learn that there are some areas where time is important.

Because God really hates it when you’re late for Carlos’ seminar.

Bonus link: a little taste of indigenous life.

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