WHEN the Bolsanaro government in Brazil appointed Ricardo Lopes Dias, above, to head the Indian Indigenous Customary Affairs Units Unit that was untouched earlier this year, Survival International reacted with horror, saying it’s like putting fox fox in charge of a chicken house. ‘
SI, who works to protect indigenous peoples around the world, has good reason to be upset by the appointment, because Dias himself is a priest and missionary and has close relations with the evangelical New Tribal Evangelical Mission (NTM), now called Ethnos360.
Back in January, Ethnos360 is proud launch a new shiny black helicopter. His mission statement said that he planned to use the flight:
To bring Jesus to indigenous tribes in remote areas of Brazil, Asia Pacific, Papua New Guinea and the Philippines.
But reported yesterday (Friday) that a judge – Antonio Souza Prudente – had rejected the appointment of Dias, saying that his relationship with NTM was a “clear conflict of interest” and would make Brazil’s policy of no forced contact with uncontrolled tribal groups in danger. This policy has been in effect since 1988.
Last month Stephen Corry, above, Director of SI, react with anger for the promise of Dias, said:
NTM has a hunting record and contacts that lead to death and illness, sexual harassment in its schools, and carry a deadly epidemic. This establishes a narrow view of religion that many Christians would not recognize. These are the last people who have to be near the tribes that are not contacted, and putting a ‘person in charge’ between them is strange and criminal. The intention is clear to eliminate Indians once and for all.
According to a statement from the regional attorney’s office, the judge was of the opinion that Dias had taken steps that violated the rights of adat groups. She says:
Historically, missionaries have sought to promote contact with isolated indigenous peoples who have recently been contacted to evangelize them, which is contrary to joint policy in Brazil.
SI described the decision as a “big blow to President Bolsonaro,” a Catholic who had the support of conservative evangelicals and called for customary reserves to be reduced in a way that cleared land for commercial mining.
The group said in a statement:
Evangelical missionaries have doubled their efforts to contact uncontrolled tribes under President Bolsonaro, who pushed for legislation to open their land for commercial exploitation, and had strong evangelical support.
Dias said earlier in an interview with O Globo the newspaper said that he did not plan to use his new position to evangelize the indigenous people. He also played the Christian “persecution” card, saying that opposition to his appointment was a form of religious discrimination.
In April, the Vale do Javari Indigenous Peoples Association won a court decision to ban missionaries from Vale do Javari indigenous territories, which is said to have the highest concentration of tribes in the world.
The decision was issued amid reports that Christian missionaries were planning a mission to reach isolated tribes by air even though the coronavirus pandemic continued.
A judge ordered government agencies to forcibly move all evangelical missionaries from Vale do Javari.
Beto Marubo, a representative of the Javari Valley Indigenous Peoples Association, said:
The Javari Valley indigenous people know that putting a missionary in charge of an Uncontrolled Indian unit is dangerous, and hopes that this decision will not be appealed.
He also claimed that the appointment of Dias was:
Nothing more than a plan to please evangelical fundamentalists who form the basis of government.
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