BWA Responds to Arrest of Baptist Leader in Venezuela

Baptist World Alliance Responds to Baptist Leader’s Arrest in Venezuela
BWA Reaches Out to Government Authorities and Pledges Support to
Local Ministries
 
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
 
(FALLS CHURCH, VIRGINIA - February 6, 2019) In response to the recent arrest of Baptist leader Gregory José Pérez, the Baptist World Alliance (BWA) is mobilizing efforts to connect with government authorities to encourage his release as well as providing financial resources to local ministries that are responding to needs of Venezuelans, both within the country and displaced refugees in neighboring nations.
 
Mr. Pérez was arrested on January 23, 2019, in the city of San Felipe, Yaracuy State, alongside more than 30 others, including numerous children ranging in age from 12 to 14. He currently serves in a volunteer capacity as the Executive Director of the National Baptist Youth Union of Venezuela, a ministry of the National Baptist Convention of Venezuela.   
 
At the time of his arrest, Mr. Pérez was working in a communications center but was asked to vacate the premises due to protests nearby. He then entered the home of friends in the vicinity and was subsequently arrested when police conducted a search of the neighborhood, despite no evidence linking him to the protests. 
 
“Brother Pérez has dedicated his life to serving others, most especially the children and youth of Venezuela. Baptists across the region testify to the positive contributions heoffers on a daily basis, from his service as an engineer to his work with young people,” says Rev. Dr. Elijah Brown, BWA General Secretary. “Yet since his arrest, Brother Pérez has been held in detention, publicly humiliated, charged with a lengthy set of allegations, and treated as a terrorist. He and has family have suffered. This constitutes an excessive and disproportionate restriction on his right to freedom.” 
 
On behalf of millions of Baptists around the world and in partnership with the National Baptist Convention of Venezuela and the Union of Baptists in Latin America, Rev. Brown and Rev. Parrish Jacome have composed and distributed a letter to government authorities within Venezuela, urging that human and legal rights be honored, including the removal of all charges against Mr. Pérez and against the others arbitrarily arrested alongside him. The BWA is also working to mobilize a greater response by reaching out to connections within the United Nations and United States Congressional Offices. 
 
The care and concern of the BWA extends beyond the needs of Mr. Pérez to all the people of Venezuela. “At this particular moment in the life of Venezuela, the BWA and Baptists around the world stand in prayer for the peace and wellbeing of the country,” says Rev. Brown.
 
To that end, in addition to justice efforts on behalf of Mr. Pérez, BWAid has offered $5,000 emergency grants to six Baptists conventions and organizations working alongside the people of Venezuela. This includes ministries that are providing support within the country, offering programs that provide basic care and employment for displaced Venezuelans, and empowering church leaders who are continuing to live a vibrant witness today.
 
The BWA is issuing a call to action for all Baptists worldwide to:
 
  1. Pray for the full release and exoneration of Gregory José Pérez, those arrested with him, and for Venezuela as a whole.
  2. Join with the BWA in direct advocacy by using the linked BWA letter as a foundation for writing your own letter to the appropriate government authorities in Venezuela. You can write directly or send your letter to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., and we will ensure your letter of support is sent to relevant offices across Venezuela.
  3. Share this call to prayer and action on social media using the hashtag, #LiberenaGregory
  4. Give to the BWA to support endeavors in Venezuela now and in the future.
 
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Pictured:
Gregory José Pérez
Executive Director of the National Baptist Youth Union of Venezuela
 
Addendum A:
 
Addendum B:
 
The Baptist World Alliance, founded in 1905, is a fellowship of 239 conventions and unions in 125 countries and territories comprising 47 million baptized believers in 169,000 churches. For more than 100 years, the Baptist World Alliance has networked the Baptist family to impact the world for Christ with a commitment to strengthen worship, fellowship and unity; lead in mission and evangelism; respond to people in need through aid, relief, and community development; defend religious freedom, human rights, and justice; and advance theological reflection and leadership development.
 
Media Contact:
J. Merritt Johnston
Director of Communications & Media
Phone: (214) 577-9187
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  

Baptists responding to Lombok earthquakes

JAKARTA, Indonesia -- Earthquakes that shook the Indonesian island of Lombok over the past week have resulted in at least 430 deaths, and the government is estimating economic losses in excess of several hundred million dollars.

Asia Pacific Baptist Aid (APBAid) is working with Baptist churches in Indonesia that are joining with other nonprofits to assess the needs and provide support to those who are affected by the quakes. Transform Aid International of Australia is also coordinating Baptist groups responding to the situation.

Gifts to support the relief efforts may be given through Baptist World Aid (BWAid) at bwanet.org. (Please note “Disaster response” in the comment section of the form.)

Damage to homes, infrastructure, and other property is estimated to be at least $342 million USD. The magnitude 6.9 quake flattened thousands of homes. "The damage and losses are very large," a disaster agency spokesman told CBS News.

APBAid reports that the central government has deployed clean drinking water, ready-to-eat food, tents, and medical teams and medicine.

BWAid is a ministry of the Baptist World Alliance. It works with Baptist bodies throughout the world in connecting resources with relief and development needs.

 

BWA speaks on religious liberty, women, immigrant families

By Tony W. Cartledge

ZURICH, Switzerland – Advocating for religious liberty in eastern Ukraine, protecting women and girls, and keeping immigrant families together were the focus of resolutions approved by the Baptist World Alliance General Council in Zurich July 2-6.

Religious Liberty in Eastern Ukraine

The first resolution expressed concern about the curbing of religious freedom in an occupied area of the Lugansk region in eastern Ukraine, where Russian forces have taken control of the area and abetted its reorganization as the “Lugansk People’s Republic” (LPR).  

The “Resolution on the Freedom of Religion in the Lugansk Region in Eastern Ukraine” notes that a new law imposed by the LPR requires that “all religious organizations within the LPR, except the Moscow Patriarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC), must now prove their loyalty to LPR authorities through a re-registration procedure in order to maintain their legal status,” as well as “to report in detail their activities.”

The statement observes that the law “violates universal human rights, restricts religious freedom, and threatens the existence of existing religious groups and organizational networks,” which violates several articles of international law. Enforcement of the law threatens the futures of 43 Baptist churches in the area.

“All people are created in God’s image and endowed with freedom to worship and practice their religion according to the dictates of their own hearts,” the resolution states, urging the Lugansk Peoples Republic “to change the law in order to make it compatible with Freedom of Religion or Belief as stated in the international declarations, conventions and agreements.”

The resolution further calls upon the UN special rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief to gather information, visit the region, and pressure LPR authorities to bring the law in line with international standards.  

Protecting Women and Girls

A “Resolution Opposing Violence and Abuse of Women and Girls” responded to issues recently brought to the fore by the #MeToo and #ChurchToo movements. It “Affirms that women and girls are created in the image of God and invested with inestimable worth and dignity as gifts from God, and are essential to the health and vitality of families, churches, communities and national life.”

“The church has at times stood silent,” the resolution states, “or has been guilty of perpetuating biblical and theological interpretations regarding women and girls that render them vulnerable to violence and abuse in the home, the church, and society; and hinder their ability to live into the fulness of God.”

The resolution “Notes that the harassment and violence against women and girls worldwide are immoral,” and that “the church has too often been guilty of abusing and demeaning women and girls, and of covering up instances of abuse.”

In response, the resolution calls on BWA member bodies to “enhance the appreciation of the worth and dignity of women and girls in all aspects of family, church life, and in society;” to “provide access to counseling and safe places for women and girls who are victims of abuse;” to “ensure a system of transparent accountability that includes reporting of suspected abuse to appropriate authorities both inside and outside the church;” and to “design and implement culturally contextualized curricula to educate ministerial leadership and congregations about the multi-faceted problem of violence on women and processes to prevent such violence.”

Separating Immigrant Families

The resolution on immigrant families was inspired largely by U.S. actions that have separated many children from their parents at the border, but family separation was recognized as a global problem. The “Resolution on Preserving the Primacy of Family in Immigration” notes that “the human desire to preserve and protect one’s family from violence, disease, economic depravity, and other threatening conditions is universal and drives millions of people to leave their homelands seeking better lives for themselves and their family members.”

The resolution further “affirms the biblical mandate to welcome the stranger” and asserts that God created the family as integral to a healthy society. It, “Calls upon individuals, churches and religious organizations to be involved in immigration issues, supporting the primacy of family solidarity;” and “encourages all Baptists to prophetically challenge immoral policies that seek to undermine the rights and dignity of immigrants, migrants, and refugees.”

Finally, the resolution “urges all governments to follow international law regarding the proper treatment of immigrants, migrants, and refugees, and to uphold the primacy of the family unit.”

Read the complete resolutions here.

12 earn Christian leadership certificates in Zurich

ZURICH, Switzerland -- Twelve Baptists from eight nations earned the Certificate in Christian Leadership during the Baptist World Alliance Annual Gathering July 1-6 in Zurich in a new leadership development effort of BWA’s Division of Mission, Evangelism, and Justice.

“My eyes have certainly been opened to the breadth and depth and work” of BWA, said Starlette Thomas of the United States. “I plan to share of the global presence, ministry and impact of the BWA. “

Trisha Miller Manarin, missions, evangelism, and justice coordinator, said, “The intent of the certificate is to intentionally engage attendees in the heart work of the 16 commissions of the MEJ division.”

Participants in the Annual Gathering in Zurich could attend as many as six commission sessions from 36 different options. Each person who earned a certificate took part in at least five sessions, with no more than two sessions from any one commission.

Each commission has elected members, but others are welcomed and encouraged to attend. Certificate participants are “expected to return home with something new to share or with a renewed commitment to the mission of the Baptist World Alliance,” Manarin said.

The 2018 meeting offered a “soft launch” of the certificate program, Manarin said. “The program will be fully launched in 2019 during the Annual Gathering in the Bahamas.”

“I’m going back to my church richer and more enthusiastic,” said Petrina Nistor, Turkey. “I will certainly share much of my experience.”

Rachel Ade Lateju of Nigeria spoke of returning home to “share how BWA is bringing the global Baptist family into one room because we are one happy family in Christ Jesus.”

Imnatoshi Longkumer of India plans to “encourage my people to participate and collaborate with BWA, by sharing what I have experienced during the BWA 2019.”

BWA’s Manarin celebrated the 2018 recipients and gave thanks for the “dedication of the commission chairs and members who serve with enthusiasm and commitment to the Lord. We hope more people will consider being part of the certificate program next year and discover the rich gifts and insights the 16 commissions have to offer our global Baptist family.”

Here are the first 12 to complete the certificate:

Sukru Biyacioglu, Turkey

Mary Chin, USA

Dawari George, Nigeria

Rachel Ade Lateju, Nigeria

Imnatoshi Longkumer, Nagaland (India)

Sanna Msiza, South Africa

Petrina Nistor, Turkey

Samuel Otu-Pimpong, Ghana

Daniel Philip, South Africa

J. Yvonne Potter, Jamaica

Starlette Thomas, USA

Edwin K. Wirenda, Ghana

 

For more information, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..



BWA president Paul Msiza emphasizes that the church belongs to God

ZURICH, Switzerland -- Paul Msiza, president of the Baptist World Alliance, stressed in his report to the BWA General Council that “a church can never be an institution owned by human beings.” The church “belongs to God.”

Msiza, senior pastor at Peniel Salem Baptist Church in South Africa, noted that “when the church belongs to Christ everyone has a place.”

The president reported that Baptists around the world “are doing well. ... Our focus on mission is exciting,” he said. And, “as Baptists we are committed to a holistic approach that involves both “word and deed.”

“We still preach Christ crucified, we still believe in evangelism, and this is who we are.”

Baptists also recognize that “we live in a hostile world” and need to continue the work of advocacy -- “to stand in the trenches with those who suffer. ... We need to stand for justice” until, like Amos in the Old Testament said, “justice rolls down like waters.”

Msiza noted two things about Baptist churches today. “We are growing and yet there are concerns.” In many countries there is still injustice, and the president noted the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr., in the United States. “We need to cry to God for prophets,” like Amos and King, who will speak the word of God and work on behalf of people.
The president also noted a concern for today’s youth. He asked why youth were not attending churches. He related a need for churches to change to reach youth, but reminded the crowd that “when we own the church, we have no place for change.”
In other matters, Msiza thanked God “with the same spirit” for Neville Callam and Elijah Brown in his report to the General Council. Callam retired as BWA general secretary last year, and Brown assumed that role at the beginning of 2018.

Msiza, thanked God for Callam’s work in “taking us through the years” and making sure there was a smooth transition to the the new general secretary. “Now,” the president said, to Brown, “we are so glad to have you lead us.”

The president welcomed two new regional secretaries to the BWA leadership -- Vee Tetseo of Asia-Pacific Baptist Federation and Jeremy Bell of the North American Baptist Fellowship.

Msiza also noted that David Kerrigan had retired as general director of BMS World Mission and that Kang-San Tan had been selected for that leadership position.