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Hakani - Paving the way to hell

Hakani - Paving the way to hell

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Published by survival
Over 100,000 people have seen the YouTube trailer for the film, ‘Hakani’, which is the cornerstone of a campaign supposedly opposing Indian infanticide in Brazil. Stephen Corry explains why it’s more complicated than that and why Survival International is against it.
Over 100,000 people have seen the YouTube trailer for the film, ‘Hakani’, which is the cornerstone of a campaign supposedly opposing Indian infanticide in Brazil. Stephen Corry explains why it’s more complicated than that and why Survival International is against it.

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Published by: survival on Sep 22, 2008
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08/23/2012

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‘Hakani’ and paving a road to hell
Over 100,000 people have seen the YouTube trailer for the film, ‘Hakani’, which isthe cornerstone of a campaign supposedly opposing Indian infanticide in Brazil.Stephen Corry explains why it’s more complicated than that and why SurvivalInternational is against it.
You object to the film ‘Hakani’. Why?
Stephen Corry: It’s faked. It puts togetherfootage from many different Indian tribes anduses trick photography to make its point. Itwasn’t filmed in an Indian community, theearth covering the children’s faces is actuallychocolate cake, and the Indians in the filmwere paid as actors.
The filmmakers say it’s a re-enactment, not a fake. How do you respond?
Stephen Corry: It’s presented as entirely real.The opening title of the complete film reads,‘A true story’, and only at the very end is theviewer told it’s a re-enactment. The trailer,which has been seen by far more people,doesn’t mention it at all. If it were broadcasthere, that would be mandatory.We don’t believe it’s real. The story is thatbecause a storm blew some thatch off anIndian house, an ‘elder’, fearing evil spiritsordered two children to be killed. One wasrescued by her brother and taken to a mission.Meanwhile, back at the tribe, another child issupposedly killed because he or she is‘possessed’.If it happened as portrayed, it’s anextraordinary isolated case. After decades of working in Amazonia, we know of no Indianpeoples where parents are told to kill theirchildren. It just doesn’t happen.
Who made the film?
Stephen Corry: It was directed by DavidCunningham, who is accused of ‘a fictitiousrewriting of history’ in another film. He’s theson of the founder of the American evangelicalorganisation, Youth with a Mission, calledJOCUM in Brazil. It’s one of the largest in theworld. There is no mention on the trailer, or onits website, who produced it.If you search the site more deeply, it says thescenes were faked, but nothing about who isbehind it. You’re invited to give money toUNKF, but you aren’t told what the initialsmean (it’s part of the mission). The evangelicalinvolvement is not mentioned at all. Even if you download the full film, the credits areunreadable, so you can’t tell who is behind it.
Why do you think this is?
Stephen Corry: Evangelical missionaries havehidden their work for decades, particularly inplaces like South America which have a strongRoman Catholic background. Youth with aMission has been banned from some parts of Brazil, but remains there illegally.
 But the film opposes infanticide, isn’t that good?
Stephen Corry: Infanticide is wrong, but weneed to understand the background to see whythese missionaries’ campaign is so dangerous.It’s also important to understand aboutinfanticide itself, which goes on all over theworld.
OK, let’s look at that first. Isn’t it wrong to kill children?
Stephen Corry: Of course it is. AmazonIndians love their babies: to suggest they don’tis racist. Amazonian infanticide is rare. Whenit does happen, it almost always follows thesame pattern: it is the mother’s decision andisn’t taken lightly. It’s made privately andsecretly and is often thought shameful,certainly tragic.Women usually give birth in the forest interior,alone or with only one or two other women. If a baby is born severely deformed and sounlikely to survive – and sometimes for otherreasons as well – it might not be brought backto the house, but left to die, even killed.Babies are not really considered members of society, in a way they are not properly human,until they’ve been ‘recognised’, often throughnaming, for example. That’s the same in many
 
 
societies, including our own until veryrecently.
 How can you compare leaving babies to diewith our society?
Stephen Corry: It’s terrible, but actuallysimilar things happen here. Many babies bornseverely deformed in hospitals are madecomfortable, but not fed. It happened to arelative of a friend of mine. The officialmedical notes just said, ‘All care given’, andthe baby was allowed to die. The awfuldecision not to try and keep the baby alive ismade, quietly and privately, by the parents andmedical staff.Obviously, like everything else, such practicesare open to abuse, but the last thing anyonewants at that moment of agonising decision isfor fundamentalists to barge in imposing theirbeliefs – no sensible society would allow that.Just as terminally ill people may be helpedalong their way, allowing sick babies to die isnever ‘official’ and would be hidden.Obviously, what counts as severely deformedin Amazonia is different to here, but theprinciple, the human tragedy, the despair andfeelings of guilt and shame are the same. Theyare bound to be: Indians are people too. As Isay, they love their babies as much as we do.I’m not defending infanticide: I am outliningthe facts. Things might be different if thesefundamentalists actually did believe one Bibleteaching: that only those free of sin themselvesshould cast stones at others – ‘sinners’ maybe – who are trying to cope with life’s tragedies.But of course the nature of fundamentalism isto select which teachings to believe and whichto reject.
The film claims Indian infanticide iswidespread.
Stephen Corry: Most experts don’t believethat. No one can say it’s happened once or ahundred times in a year, though some pretendthey can. It can’t be corroborated: researchcarried out on infanticide in Europe and NorthAmerica is difficult to corroborate too, but hasproduced shocking results.As I say, most Indian experts, at least those notdriven to evangelise, believe it’s rare andfading away, and that’s what most Indians say.We believe it has not happened in many tribesfor years.
 Let’s be clear, you aren’t denying that somebabies are killed in Amazonia?
Stephen Corry: Of course not. Babies arekilled all over the world. As well as themedically ‘sanctioned’ deaths I’ve mentioned,it’s also little-known that, for example, you’remore likely to be killed here (ie. the UK) inyour first year of life than at any other time. Inthe USA, it’s thought that nearly a millionbabies are mistreated annually, and that no lessthan 20% die as a result.Actually, in the US, it has been legal to allowdisabled babies to be ‘denied care’ since 1986,something which the Anglican Church has alsoaccepted more recently. In the Netherlands,researchers think about 10-20 babies each yearare allowed to die after birth. In the US, thecomparable figure is reckoned to be about 85babies. The more one is aware of these figures,the more one wonders why the missionarieshave picked on Brazilian Indians. For example,in the UK, one in ten of all child deaths isthought to be infanticide.Barbaric practices of one sort or another –including allowing medieval levels of inequality which lead to immense sufferingand death – are alive and well all over theworld, no more in the Amazon than in theUSA or UK. South American Indians I’ve metthink that how we treat our old people ishorrible.
So why oppose the film if it’s just trying to stopthis kind of thing?
Stephen Corry: The film and its message areharmful. They focus on what they claimhappens routinely in Indian communities, butit doesn’t. It incites feelings of hatred againstIndians. Look at the comments on theYouTube site, things like, ‘So get rid of thesenative tribes. They suck’, and, ‘Those amazonmother f---ers burrying (sic) little kids, killthem all’. The filmmakers should be ashamedof all the harm this film is doing to the peoplethey are trying to help.It’s propaganda to bolster the evangelicalcampaign for a very dangerous principle, theso-called Muwaji law, which has beenpresented to the Brazilian Congress.
What’s that?
The Muwaji law focuses on what it calls‘traditional practices’ and says what the stateand citizens
must 
do about them. It says that if 
 
 
anyone
thinks
there is a risk of ‘harmfultraditional practices’, they must report it. If they don’t, they are liable to imprisonment.The authorities
must 
intervene and remove thechildren and/or their parents. All this becausesomeone, anyone, a missionary for example,claims there is some risk.
 Isn’t any law against killing children a just one?
Stephen Corry: It’s already illegal in Brazil tokill children: there is no need for newlegislation. Tens of thousands more non-IndianBrazilian children are abused and killed thanIndian children. Physical abuse is tragicallynot uncommon in some frontier areas and isregarded by the Indians as atrocious andunthinkable.About 2 to 6 children are murdered in just onecity, Rio, not every year, but each day! Addthe estimate for children who die from lack of food, medical care and hygiene, and annuallymany thousands of Brazilian babies never seetheir first birthday.A moment’s thought will show how this lawcould bring catastrophic social breakdown,with neighbour spying on neighbour, familiessplit and lives destroyed. Local authorities arebound to err on the side of caution, and wadein, especially if they risk imprisonmentthemselves if they don’t act. All manner of petty neighbourhood disputes risk escalatinginto appalling and irreversible action. Far fromleading to less violence against children, it ismore likely to induce
more
, as the stateremoves even tiny children from their parentsand societies.Suppose, for example, some disgruntledcommunity member, or local missionary,reported his thoughts that everyone in a villageknew about a risk of infanticide but hadn’tgone to the authorities. Under the proposedlaw, everyone except him should beimprisoned! It’s a law fostering witch-hunts.
 Are such extremes likely?
Stephen Corry: Yes. Look at what happened inAustralia for decades, right up until the 1970s,with Aboriginal children taken from theirparents to get them away from theirsupposedly harmful culture, a policy oftenmanaged by missionaries. Such goodintentions pave the road to hell: it resulted ingenerations of Aborigines suffering appallingsocial dislocation, leaving a legacy of catastrophically high levels of imprisonment,alcoholism, domestic violence, suicide and soon. The policy, which can now be seen to beself-righteously criminal, is brilliantlyportrayed in the film, ‘Rabbit-proof fence’.The Muwaji law rolls Brazil back centuries, toa time when the ‘heathen’ natives wereattacked and destroyed by colonists relying ona religious belief which justified their ownbarbarism. Far from helping Brazilian Indianchildren, the law could really hurt them.
 Haven’t the evangelical missionaries thought of this?
Stephen Corry: Most humane people would beastonished at the extremism shown by someevangelical missionaries. Some of them thinkthat everyone who doesn’t share their beliefs isensnared by the devil, even if they are otherChristian missionaries! Some believe it doesn’tmatter if people die from their actions, becausethey are condemned to eternal damnationanyway, and one soul ‘saved’, makes otherdeaths worthwhile. Some missionaries are lessinterested in the welfare of the living than inthe afterlife.Indians
have
died, for example in Paraguay bybeing hunted to bring them into mission life.One such contact expedition, organised bymissionaries and resulting in death, can beheard in Survival’s film, ‘Uncontacted tribes’.This, by the way, is not a re-enactment butentirely real, recorded at the time it happenedand completely unedited.
What would you say to those who might claim you are anti-missionary?
Stephen Corry: It’s not true. We, and Ipersonally, have worked with countlessmissionaries. The best do an enormous amountfor indigenous peoples, and stand in the veryforefront of protecting them and their rights;the worst do great harm. Exactly the same canbe said of anthropologists, conservationists, oranyone else for that matter.
What about those who say that Survival hascriticised missionary organisations?
Stephen Corry: We’ve criticised organisationsof all kinds, it’s part of our job, but we’ve alsoworked hand-in-hand with many others. Aboutten years ago, a senior member of a very largemission organisation personally told me thatour critiques published in the 1970s had

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Abelmon Bastos added this note
The story told in "Hakani" was confirmed in another documentary called "Quebrando o silêncio" made by Sandra Teresa, a journalist with indian heritage. We need to research more before presenting misunderstandings about evangelical missionary works at indian lands. In my opinion, this text must be corrected or deleted. Please, take a deeper look into this issue.

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