The Conversion Agenda

"Freedom to convert" is counterproductive as a generalized doctrine. It fails to come to terms with the complex interrelationships between self and society that make the concept of individual choice meaningful. Hence, religious conversion undermines, and in extremes would dissolve, that individual autonomy and human freedom.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Venezuela Orders US Missionary Group Out in 90 Days

CARACAS, Venezuela
16 Nov 2005

Venezuela gave a US evangelical missionary group a 90-day deadline to leave indigenous communities after President Hugo Chavez accused them of spying and ordered them out of the country.

Chavez, a former soldier increasingly at odds with the US administration, last month charged the Florida-based New Tribes Mission with working for the CIA and abusing indigenous groups and demanded they leave Venezuela.

A government resolution published in the official government gazette yesterday revoked the permit that allowed the New Tribes missionaries to carry out evangelical work with indigenous groups for more than 40 years in Venezuela.

The order called for ''New Tribes Mission members to leave Puerto Ayacucho, San Fernando de Atabapo, San Juan de Manapiare, Corobal, Guajaribo and Platanal, as well as any other area with indigenous communities.'' Chavez ordered the New Tribes Mission out of the country a few days after conservative US preacher Pat Robertson accused the left-leaning president of funding Osama Bin Laden and seeking out nuclear material from Iran. Chavez dismissed those charges as ridiculous.

Soon after Chavez ordered the New Tribes expulsion, about 200 Mormon missionaries abandoned Venezuela because of what U.S. officials said were security worries. Church officials said they reassigned missionaries due to visa difficulties.

Since his election in 1998, Chavez has sought to introduce a self-described socialist revolution in Venezuela, but his close ties with Cuba and harsh criticism of Washington have caused conflict with US officials.

Venezuela, the world's No. 5 oil exporter, remains a key supplier to the US market. But Washington portrays Chavez as a menace who uses his country's oil wealth to fund subversive groups and undermine democracy.

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