At a time of increased crisis for Venezuela, the leader of Viva’s partner network in the country has asked for continued prayers for peace at a national level and within families.
Life is really tough for people in Venezuela. Having suffered hyperinflation, food and medical shortages, rising crime and unemployment in recent years – leading to three million people fleeing the country – its politics is now in a state of deadlock, with the eyes of the world turned onto the nation.
Around 40 countries, including the US and most Latin American and European nations, are backing opposition leader Juan Guaidó who has declared himself interim president following large protests that have galvanised opponents of current President Nicolás Maduro. The situation gets more tense each day, leading to very real concerns that civil war may erupt and US military might intervene.
It is in this context that Viva’s partner network RENACSENIV is bringing together 1,280 churches and organisations to reach more than 429,067 children.
Maritza Sibila (right), Co-ordinator of RENACSENIV, has this week updated us about the impact on family life of the humanitarian crisis in Venezuela right now, and how churches are promote peace.
She writes, “The general shortage of food, medicine, fuel and electricity is resulting in anxiety, frustration and tension across the population. This tension is first expressed within families.
“There has been an increase in the presence of children, teenagers and entire families looking for something to eat in rubbish bins and dumps. Food theft has also increased in places where there are supplies. There are also children and teenagers in groups wandering and sleeping in the streets.
“All these shortages are generating conflict and violence in families when children and teenagers seek to satisfy their hunger or need for some food by ignoring their parents. There are stories in the press such as the case of a mother who burned her daughter’s hands for taking the baby’s bottle or another parent who burned the lips of a child for eating the little food kept by the family during the night.”
In 2018, the media reported that one in three fatal victims of violence were young people between 18 and 24 years old. Six out of ten people who suffer death by aggression in Venezuela are between the ages of 12 and 29.
Maritza adds, “In the absence of public policies aimed at improving the situation, the population is left in a state of great helplessness that leads citizens to resolve their situation by their own means, regardless of what happens to others. This has brought great chaos in the daily life of Venezuelan people.
“This situation is also present in the local Church, which is why it is necessary to deepen our activities of service to neighbours and the teaching of biblical principles and values directed to the family context where the germ of all this culture of violence, death and daily mourning resides.”
Last year, supported by Viva’s Latin America staff team, the network trained 20 churches in six regions of the country in the ‘Why Families Matter’ programme. A total of 483 families, comprising 1,543 children and teenagers were reached.
Maritza says, “The structure and content of the programme makes it possible, in the short term, to positively impact the families, helping them to reflect and decide to make a change in their lives.
“Therefore, it is a helpful tool to reduce and prevent violence for vulnerable families, such as those that receive children from relatives, as well as neighbours who leave the country in search of work to send resources from another country.”
As well as practical help, prayer is vital at a time like this.
“We have prayed and we continue praying a lot so that the Lord will raise suitable women and men lead our country,” says Maritza.
“It is not easy to support the network as we ourselves are in difficult situations but we thank the Lord for the family of faith, especially for the Viva family, in these challenging times.
“We have faith that this 2019 will be a year of great blessing for families in churches and the impact they may have in their neighbourhood. Thinking about this motivates us to keep going, dreaming and working so that many children and their families live a prosperous life.”
Please do stand in prayer with our brothers and sisters in Venezuela. If you would like to share your prayers with them, please feel free to email us and we’ll pass your prayer encouragements on.
You can read more about the network in Venezuela in a blog post written by Viva’s Karen Moran, who visited the country in May 2018.