Venezuela orders US missionaries out of indigenous communitites.

By November 17, 2005

Venezuela (MNN)–The countdown has begun for the expulsion of New Tribes Mission from the areas where they’re working in Venezuela.

On Monday, the Ministry of Justice and Interior published an order revoking NTM’s access to indigenous territories that has been in effect since 1953.

Prior to the order, President Hugo Chavez, in a public speech, accused the agency of destroying Indian cultures and spying.

The organization has 160 missionaries and staff in Venezuela. They have repeatedly denied accusations of wrongdoing and are making all attempts to set the record straight.

New Tribes Mission’s Nita Zelenak says it’s not as bad as it sounds. “This order only requires that the missionaries leave indigenous areas. At least for now, we’re still in the country. We have 90 days both for the missionaries to continue ministering and also 90 days to appeal the order.”

Zelenak clarifies that they are not being asked to leave the country, or even to stop their work immediately. “For the next three months, the evangelistic work can continue, and so, one of our prayer requests for folks is to be really praying for the missionaries, as they seek to continue to stay focused on their ministries even as they prepare for the possibility that they will have to leave after 90 days.”

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