New Constitution Rallies Bolivia's Christians

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CWN.org - Sunday, Bolivian voters easily accepted a new constitution for the country written by supporters of leftist President Evo Morales.

Pre-election polls showed a majority of voters backing the constitutional proposal, but opposition has been strong, especially among the country's Christians.

The proposed Bolivian constitution allows a second term for President Morales, when his current mandate ends in 2011. Like his Venezuelan ally, Hugo Chavez, Morales wants more time to carry out his socialist revolution in Bolivia.

Click play for more analysis with CBN News' Stan Jeter, after his report.

But Bolivian church leaders say the problems go deeper. They say the proposed constitution will turn the country back to its ancient religions, giving the government legal grounds for restricting the Christian faith.

Former congressman Napoleon Ardaya has analyzed the document.

"From the point of view of those who promote this constitution, everything that came with the Spanish Conquest, including, obviously, the Christian faith, is something that needs to go," he said. "It promotes a process called de-colonization, to get rid of everything that is colonial and return to things that are ancestral. Not just in the culture, but in religion as well."

The constitutional referendum has brought many of Bolivia's churches together. A recent prayer rally in the city of Santa Cruz included both evangelicals and Catholics, all opposing the new constitution.

"Article 4 says the state will be independent of religion but in reality it's going to be the religion of the original peoples--a kind of state religion," former constitutional delegate Cleto Perez explained.

Both Catholic and evangelical churches have spent the last weeks informing their congregations of the dangers of the proposed constitution.

"Bible studies, messages and outlines of Bible messages, along with the analysis of the text of the proposed constitution, but in the light of the word of God," Agusting Aguilera of the Evangelical Alliance said.

In spite of the church campaign, it's not likely Bolivia's large indigenous population will abandon Morales--the country's first indigenous president. Their votes will also be decisive in the constitutional referendum.

Whatever happens after Sunday's vote, one benefit is already clear-- the crisis has brought greater unity to Bolivia's churches.

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