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:
- Pray for the full release and exoneration of Gregory José Pérez, those arrested with him, and for Venezuela as a whole.
- 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 BWA@bwanet.org, and we will ensure your letter of support is sent to relevant offices across Venezuela.
- Share this call to prayer and action on social media using the hashtag, #LiberenaGregory
- Give to the BWA to support endeavors in Venezuela now and in the future.
The Baptist World Alliance, founded in 1905, is a fellowship of 240 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.
J. Merritt Johnston
Director of Communications & Media
Phone: +1 (214) 577-9187