Ignoring the imminent danger of the coronavirus, some Christian missionaries are carrying on with their attempts to evangelize isolated indigenous people in the Amazon.
As Eduardo Campos Lima at Religion News Service points out, adding to the controversy is how Brazil’s authoritarian government is allowing this to happen. While COVID precautions said only essential workers (like nurses) could be in contact with Indigenous peoples, missionaries were granted an exemption to the rule.
… Indigenous groups and those who defend their rights worry that the new law will prompt missionaries to enter their reservations, which have long been protected by the Brazilian government in an effort to preserve their culture.
In an email to RNS, [missionary Andrew] Tonkin said the federal government granted him permission to go “into the reserve” to “help and better the life of the people. The people in the reserve also have every right as a community to invite who they wish to visit their village.”
Saying that he does not “preach or teach a religion of any form,” he describes his mission as an effort to empower “the people by the redemptive power of Christ,” helping “them to discover God’s plan for their life through Jesus Christ.”
It’s not just the spread of the virus that’s concerning; as the Indigenous groups make clear, these Christians are trying to undo their culture and customs in the name of faith.
The missionaries have clearly learned nothing from the incident involving American missionary John Allen Chau, who was killed by natives of a remote tribe on North Sentinel Island near India in 2018. Colonization aside, Chau’s actions endangered the islanders by potentially exposing them to diseases that they had no natural means to fight against.
Now, with a deadly pandemic on our hands, traveling anywhere is ill-advised. A person can still carry the coronavirus without showing any symptoms. Knowingly taking the risk of infecting people — much less an isolated tribe — isn’t loving in any sense of the word; it’s cruel and reckless.
But much like pastors who insist on massive indoor church services despite the COVID threat, these missionaries show no signs of taking sensible precautions. They’re more interested in tally marks than improving lives.
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