It is necessary to investigate the evangelistic mission

TIB_Ilustra_Evangelicos Yanomami_03

Illustration: Clara Oliveira/Intercept Brasil

year time Jair Bolsonaro, a project of Christian supremacy and evangelization of the country was transformed into government policy, and indigenous peoples were in the crosshairs. The Ministry of Women, Family and Human Rights, led by Damares Alves, took control of Funai and opened up the indigenous areas to a move that distanced itself from the tradition of silence and discretion of missionary agencies, strengthening them a leadership role. Now, the size of the evangelistic mission’s responsibility in the Yanomami genocide must be recognized.

The presidency of FUNAI was handed over to Pastor Ricardo Dias for a few months, and the coordination of the organization in Mato Grosso was entrusted to Henrique Tena, an evangelical indigenous man, a friend of Damares, who presided over the National Council of Pastors and Indigenous Leaders, CONPLEI. To make matters worse, the demarcation of tribal lands left the chance for Funai to the Ministry of Agriculture – six months later, in June 2019, through a decree annulled by the STF in a unanimous decision.

These choices may simply represent a government policy choice, but much more was involved. They were a strategy to conquer territories through the affirmation of a fundamentalist theological outlook and the expansion of evangelization projects. Less Land, More Propaganda: The old dream of offering indigenous peoples a so-called Christian cosmovision—a theological ideal that seeks to frame all dimensions of life, and society, in assimilation with Christianity—was at the height of criticism by the institutions that should protect them and oversee the secularization of the state. done

Meanwhile, condemnation of mining progress on indigenous lands was mounting, from activists, national and international organizations. Comfortably under government protection, the mission bodies did not act, did not condemn, did not show discomfort, did not call for intervention.

Instead, when in January 2021, Bolsonaro was denounced by chief Almir Surui and dignitary Raoni Metuktia at the International Criminal Court for killing and persecuting indigenous people, evangelicals immediately sought to defend the then-president. Konplei, in a letter signed by Henrik Terena, said: “President Jair Messias Bolsonaro and the president of FUNAI are friends of the indigenous people and have our support”. Also, the letter states that Chief Raoni’s representation is “subsidised by NGOs and/or organizations which oppose the tribals of the state, give false information and boast about genocidal projects which we have not verified”.


Chief Raoni Metuktire, who climbed the Planalto ramp with Lula at the presidential inauguration last January 1st.

Photo: Wallace Martins/Futura Press/FolhaPress

Genocide has spanned the years of Bolsonaro’s government as part of a process of complete lack of protection for indigenous peoples. It was already underway when Pastor Marcos Coti – a Bolsonaro ally and leader of one of the world’s largest and most influential missionary organizations, with a strong presence among indigenous peoples – mocked Chief Rowney, who was hospitalized with Covid-19 in September 2020. Coty released an image saying Rowney had “updated his antivirus system”.

These mission organizations and institutions created a sort of parallel world, completely autonomous and largely detached from traditional academia. They established universities, educational institutions and a kind of philosophy of their own knowledge, which eliminated the need for dialogue with confessional centers. Institutions such as the University of the Nations, affiliated with YWAM, and the Haggai Institute, both spread around the world, annually train large numbers of leaders and missionaries in the evangelical field.

A conservative Christian worldview forms a large part of these people who keep in mind the idea of ​​reaching the so-called “unconventional peoples”, which includes indigenous peoples. Despite the exceptions that emerge from these spaces, they serve as veritable centers of intellectual and academic grounding for radical evangelical projects of encroaching tribal territory.

After decades of traversing this missionary jungle, Damares Alves took libertarian ideals into government when he became a minister. A fundamentalist theology that, as a “fruit”, displays indigenous people converted in past missions, as mediators and legitimators of Bolsonaroist policies for the region.

But it must be said: many of these companies have ties to power even before Bolsonaro. The evangelical mission from Caiuá, Mato Grosso do Sul, for example, virtually “owns” indigenous health in Brazil, as has already been revealed. stop in the way In 2017. A domain that involves political power, influence and a lot of money.

It is clear that this should not disqualify the work of the many serious and committed missionaries working on Aboriginal lands. In fact there is a real commitment to indigenous peoples’ lives, especially their health. But these individuals are not the agencies, organizations or churches and leadership that stand behind them.

Most male and female evangelists—in fact, many young people excited about the idea of ​​”spreading the message of Jesus”—have no real dimension to the power project they were inducted into, a theology that is often fundamentalist and sectarian. Evangelism projects exist and continue to be the real priority of these institutions. The silence of all of them (only a few individual missionaries came to try to present a perspective on the tragedy) is proportional to their indifference to the threats faced by the indigenous people with the miners and loggers. Missionaries, places of worship and indigenous conversion are fundamental to the region.

An investigation into how the Yanomami situation reached this point must include these organizations and institutions. They were. Its leaders sit at Bolsonaro’s table, benefiting from a wider role, voice and access granted by the government, friendly with Damares Alves. Banning these companies from entering now is not enough. Its role needs to be investigated and the consequences of its association accounted for.