The Scriptures teach us to submit to our governing authorities. But what happens when those authorities are questionable in their legitimacy? And we find ourselves in a nation divided along hardened lines regarding who has the legal right to the claim of “governing authority”?
US news channels do not talk about Bolivia. Even as racist violence has taken four lives in the past week, the streets are blockaded, transportation is severely restricted, and basic necessities are threatened. Amid all this clamor, the more persistent, generational injustice of poverty and domestic violence fades into silence. Bolivia’s president has resigned as a result of pressure from social movements, yet has done so with an undertone of bitterness that suggests things are far from over.
Beneath the fog of such ideological battles, does any of this matter when you are a child who has suffered abuse and abandonment? Whose voice has already been silenced twice over by family and society alike?
This is the current situation of Bolivia, and the questions being asked by the 41 children, teens and young adults, and the 23 staff, of BelPres partner, Niños con Valor. Bolivia is amid the worst civil unrest in decades, and the issues at the center of this unrest are not to be ignored. Yet our kids are unable to attend school, can’t participate in extra-curricular classes, and suddenly find in their internal uncertainty merging with external uncertainty. So, how do we react?
It has been a wild three weeks as unrest in Bolivia aimed at forcing the current administration, proven to have committed fraud to remain in power, out of office. Everything has happened in waves. A day of extreme violence and then a day or two of calm. There have been difficulties in getting around due to blockages. It is a part of the process of letting the government know the level of discontent that exists amongst the majority of Bolivians. Thankfully, food, gas, and basic necessities have been minimally impacted, and the most significant complication for the kids of NCV has been the lack of school.
Yesterday, many MAS(Movimiento al Socialismo: Movement for Socialism–Political Instrument for the Sovereignty of the Peoples) politicians, including President Evo Morales and Vice-President Garcia Linera, stepped down. However, this was done amid accusations of a coup and assurances that they would return and was only done verbally without any formal proceedings.
Unfortunately, there has been violence on both sides. Some comments made by followers of one of the prominent social leaders, Luis Fernando Camacho, have attempted to paint this in a “Christian” light, to the degree of saying derogatory things about the Pachamama. These comments will likely only increase the violence that flared after the resignations. On the one hand, there have been signs that the opposition has been working to bridge racist divides. However, comments like this will create a wariness in the indigenous groups. It may potentially provide justifications for the comments made by Evo: all the opposition wants is to wrest from the indigenous people the freedoms and voice they have fought too long to obtain.
I believe in the importance of term-limits. A country is strengthened by change rather than continuance in the power of a single leader. Sadly, the lack of interest the government here has shown towards the social services of children who have suffered abuse has been so minimal. NCV leadership has been hoping for a shift in direction that could lead to a change in policy. I only hope that this also doesn’t mean a return to policies that marginalize people based on their beliefs, the color of their skin, the language they speak.
The next days and weeks will be crucial. Last night was full of violence and vandalism, both from opposition and MAS supporters. There is anarchy due to the lack of public security (police and army are only intervening in extreme situations). In general, people are anxious and uncertain.
In the end, we find ourselves coming back to the core of our ministry. Governments and leaders change, ideologies shift, public support for the marginalized ebbs, and flows. What doesn’t change, however, is God’s love. So, in the midst, the current political climate and unrest, we focus on family. On keeping each other safe, our spirits raised, and faith strong. We know that God’s call to serve and bring justice to those who are suffering. Christ’s examples of the compassionate accompaniment of those society rejects are not dependent on our surroundings.
We encourage our BelPres family to catch up on Bolivian news and pray for our children, for our nation and its leaders, and most of all – for peace.
In this context, we ask for prayers to find a peaceful solution to embrace the diverse perspectives, concerns, and needs held by all of Bolivians. And that God will not be used as a justification for division, but that the church would exemplify Christ’s love.