Indian Missionaries Target Brazil's Amerindians

“In each people, a GENUINELY INDIGENOUS church” - image of the Conplei website[1] - missionaries have no limits for cynicism.       


Despite efforts from the Brazilian National Amerindian Foundation (known by its Portuguese acronym, FUNAI) prohibiting the presence of missionaries in areas populated by natives, the creeping influence of missionary groups has found new ways to infiltrate indigenous territory.

According to the 2010 Brazilian national census, the number of evangelical Amerindians grew 42% during the last 10 years, equivalent to 25% of the Amerindian population.  This follows the overall growth of the evangelical church in Brazil: between 2000 and 2010, the number of evangelical believers grew 61%, to 22% of the Brazilian population. [2]  The prohibition on the creation of new Missionary fronts in 1994 and the expulsion of all Missions from indigenous areas in 1991 stated by FUNAI did not convince evangelical churches to give up, instead they found a new way to accomplish their “holy” duty. [3] 
 
Evangelical churches have begun training Amerindians to be preachers.  “The state cannot stop one Amerindian from meeting another Amerindian,” said Edward Luz, president of the “Missão Novas Tribos do Brasil” (New Tribal Mission of Brazil). “Half the Amerindians do not live in native villages. A huge number go to universities. And the majority say: I will go back to my people and bring the gospel to them. Against this force there is no resistance.”  This strategy was defined at the 6th Congress of Missions, and missionaries intend to summon legal power in case the government tries to forbid it. 
 
Márcio Meira, president of FUNAI, said the motivation of the Missions is ideological.  “It is the duty of a secular state to protect and avoid any contact between missionaries and isolated Amerindians,” Meira said.  The National Council of Indian Preachers and Evangelical Leaders (Conplei) states on their website their objective is “the fulfilment of the biblical commandment to preach the gospel to all peoples, nations or languages.”
 
Davi Kopenawa Yanomami, an indigenous leader, described how he chose to be a non-believer regarding missionary teachings. The reason was sexual misbehaviour.  “A missionary is ... another kind of politician,” Kopenawa said. “They do not invade our land, but our culture, our tradition, our knowledge. They ... take our thoughts and then put their thoughts in their place -- their wisdom, their religion. I, Davi, was a believer before, like them. I wanted to meet Jesus, but it didn't work out. Then a missionary had relations with a Yanomami girl, and it didn't work out. I found out nothing was true, and I stopped believing. They are all false believers, and I don´t believe anymore.”
 
Sources for this article are the blog by Paulo Lopes and an article by Felipe Milanez for Rolling Stone Brasil. [3] 
 
[1] Conplei - Conselho nacional de pastores e líderes evangélicos indígenas (Portuguese) - accessed on 3 August 2012
[2] Folha Online (Portuguese) - accessed on 3 August 2012
[3] Rolling Stone Brasil (Portuguese) - accessed on 3 August 2012