there is a risk of ‘harmfultraditional practices’, they must report it. If they don’t, they are liable to imprisonment.The authorities
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
, 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
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