Let Us Convert Uncontacted Tribes!

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A major news story making the rounds has concerned photos of an “uncontacted” indigenous tribe in Brazil, sparking debate over the treatment and rights of these isolated communities. While some, like Peruvian oil and gas interests, contest that there is no such a thing as an “uncontacted” tribe, others, most notably Survival International and CIPIACI, have urged the Brazilian government to ensure the protection of their territory.

Uncontacted Indians in Brazil, May 2008
© Gleison Miranda/FUNAI

“There are more than one hundred uncontacted tribes worldwide, with more than half living in either Brazil or Peru. All are in grave danger of being forced off their land, killed and decimated by new diseases. Survival has launched an urgent campaign to get their land protected…”

Now a third party, evangelical Christian missionaries, have weighed in on the subject of these tribes. Unsurprisingly, they want to foray in and “contact” them with the love of Christ, damn the consequences (such as decimating them with disease).

“It’s hard to understand how providing medical care and literacy is exploitation, especially among indigenous groups where the life expectancy of men and women is lower than average and suicide rates among youth are alarmingly high, but New Tribes and other mission organizations may face increasing opposition as governments like Venezuela’s and Brazil’s restrict outside access to tribes. In the process, those governments seem to be promoting the ideology of the “noble savage” and assuming it’s in the best interests of indigenous people to have no access to the modern world, or to the gospel.”

The article also casts aspersions on Venezeula for kicking them out, despite a long history of missionary groups (particularly New Tribes Mission) committing acts of ethnocide, espionage, and outright insurrection in the country. These Christian missionary groups are also not fond of the recent Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples by the United Nations, which enshrines the right to religious integrity.

“The UN Declaration, adopted in September of 2007, grants broad national rights to natives and contains language that could cause problems for … missionaries.”

What sorts of “care” and “literacy” would groups like New Tribes Mission provide if allowed to evangelize these Indians? Here is a quote from a typical “teaching session” given to a recently contacted tribe.

“As John taught about the Ten Commandments he held up a mirror, showing the Ayores how he could look into it and see himself. Then he took mud and spread it all over his face. The people thought it was hilarious, but John brought out the seriousness of the lesson. He told them how, in the mirror, he could see the dirt all over his face and that God’s Law was like a mirror. It showed people how they are dirty (sinful) before God.”

You see, indigenous people need to be taught that they are dirty sinners (under constant divine surveillance), and that only conversion will get them “clean”. I can’t see how we could deny the missionaries this opportunity, after all, according to Pope Benedict they are “silently longing” for it! So remember, according to missionaries, cultural and religious integrity, freedom from diseases they have no immunity to, and land rights come second to the old carrot/stick scenario of “progress” in exchange for your soul.