Venezuela (MNN) – President Trump’s latest travel ban was announced late last month. Added to the list this time is North Korea and Venezuela. By last week, two federal judges had blocked the new ban. One of the questions raised about the new additions was, why Venezuela?
Some people believe that the addition of these two countries was a move to debunk the theory that Trump’s bans have discriminated against Muslims. These are the only two non-Muslim-majority countries on the list. However, Steve Shantz of Trans World Radio believes that it was more of a “symbolic gesture” from the United States to Venezuela, representing the dissidence between the two nations.
Officially, the reason behind the ban on Venezuela has to do with the government not sharing public safety and terrorism-related information. The ban on Venezuela is unique because regular citizens are not included in the ban. It only applies to some government workers and their immediate families.
However, it is true that the United States has held a poor opinion of Venezuela’s current government for some time.
Venezuela’s economic crisis continues to spiral downward. Within and without the country, there are a variety of opinions on what the problem is and how to fix the situation. The United States has been particularly critical and acted upon the situation by slapping sanctions on the Venezuelan government.
Shantz says he believes Venezuela might have been added “to address the situation in Venezuela where the US government feels that the Venezuelan government [is] not being cooperative in bringing about the reforms in the country that the United States would like to see.”
Tension among the people
Last week, Venezuela held regional elections for state governors and there was an overwhelming win for the socialist party. The governors were sworn in last week, despite the opposition’s refusal to accept the results. This represents the split of opinions among the Venezuelan people. Because each school of thought holds to their opinions so strongly, it’s created a tense situation that’s led to protests in recent months.
While some have blamed the government for the current economic crisis, Shantz says, “There are other people in the country who … believe that the socialist government is the only government that’s really addressing the needs of the poor. So, there is a lot of support in the country for the existing regime.”
But regardless of their individual positions, the situation is dire for the people of Venezuela.
The Guardian describes a food problem that is indifferent to status and economic class. The brutal desperation that comes with hunger has influenced a growth in the sex industry. Ninety percent of homes cannot afford to buy the food that the household should be consuming. Young and promising individuals have given up their dreams for a successful future and instead consider how they’ll get their next meal.
Shantz says, “A lot of people’s lives are caught up with just day-to-day survival—standing in long lines to get food and other things that they need.”
Challenges to sharing a message of hope to a starving nation
Trans World Radio, known as Rádio Trans Mundial in Venezuela, is a media ministry that works alongside the local Church to share the message of Jesus. Shantz describes a very close relationship between the ministry and local churches. Content is produced in-country and broadcasted from the island of Bon Air. Many of the congregations tune in to the biblical teaching the radio programming provides.
But the challenges the nation faces are likewise challenges for the Church.
“It becomes very difficult for people just trying to survive. And it’s very difficult for the Church as well in these days in Venezuela, both the fact that they’re having to deal personally with the economic issues and the economic shortages but they ‘re also trying to minister to the people around them and to bring a message of God’s love in the midst of very difficult times.”
Without the physical resources to meet the present needs of people, the Church has a hard time finding a place where people can really hear about eternal hope. That said, they are still doing what they can to be the hands and feet of Jesus.
“I’ve also heard of some churches that are actually doing feeding programs for kids. So they’re giving kids … a container of porridge. They’re able to get ahold of resources and then use those resources to reach out to the community around them in a practical way. It does create an opportunity for the Church where, if they can amass some resources, to use those to bring a message of love to the people around them.”
Venezuela’s troubles have been largely overshadowed by other international events. Because of this and the outstanding needs there, it can be difficult to know how to help. But believers must remember the power of prayer.
“What we have is the throne of grace– we have prayer. And what we need to pray for is that there will be some sort of a reform to take place in Venezuela that the economic situation will improve there so that people’s basic needs will be met. That can be done through prayer… just pray that God would intervene in Venezuela in a powerful and strong way so the situation for the people would improve.
“And also pray for the Church. Just pray for the Christians that they will know how to respond to the situation that everybody is dealing with in a way that they can provide a message of hope.”
Shantz asks that you also pray for the TWR broadcasts to touch lives and bring people hope.
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