[Marxism] Chavez to expel some missionaries from Venezuela
jonathan.flanders at verizon.net
Wed Oct 12 19:31:39 MDT 2005
Chavez moves against US preachers
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has said he is about to expel a US
missionary group, New Tribes Mission.
The leftist leader said the group were "imperialists" and that he felt
"ashamed" at their presence in indigenous areas of Venezuela.
He accused the Florida-based group of making unauthorised flights and
setting up luxurious camps amid poverty.
New Tribes, which preaches to non-Christian indigenous peoples, said it
had no immediate comment.
It is one of Latin America's biggest missionary organisations and has
3,200 workers and operates in 17 countries, with operations in West
Africa and South-East Asia too.
"The New Tribes are leaving Venezuela," Mr Chavez said at a ceremony to
present land titles and farming equipment to members of Venezuela's
New Tribes Mission
The New Tribes Mission (NTM), set up in 1942, is one of many
fundamentalist christian missions that is trying to peddle its message
to vulnerable groups, in this case the remaining tribal peoples of the
world. It sets itself the ambitious and frightening target of continuing
with this "until the last tribe is reached". It is active in nineteen
The role of a missionary is to infiltrate a tribe, and convince or
coerce them into rejecting their own indigenous spiritual beliefs in
favour of the christian church. Many times much more than this is lost,
as people are 'educated' by missionaries, or missionary activity is the
harbinger of further economic development Indigenous people find
themselves suddenly brought in to the global economy with a bump,
totally exploitable and the bottom of a pile. What's more, the people
who are targetted are certainly those who are living in the most
ecological manner possible, and where they do not face problems from
other development projects, are also the most free.
The work of missionaries has since the start of the colonial era been as
an initial subjugating force to herald the arrival of civilisation, and
this continues to be the case today, as ideologially-charged
missionaries raid the world's remaining ecological frontiers in search
of new blood.
Nowhere in its statement of core values, or anywhere on its many
websites, does the NTM claim any concern for the welfare of the people
it is targetting. Even oil companies can usually manage some sort of
greenwash bullshit, but the approach of NTM clearly defines indigenous
people as 'savages' (it has even used this word in its literature) to be
In the South Pacific, news continues to filter in about the NTM's
activities. In West Papua they have been active for many years, and much
of their work of 'conversion' is now complete. Recently however,
observers monitoring the actions of the Indonesian state against the
anti-development struggle of the OPM, have noticed that NTM aircraft
flying from village to village, now distributing Coca-Cola and crisps,
bringing the people there further into the cash economy.
Meanwhile in the Philippines, one of the countries where NTM is most
active, Stefan Keulig of Friends of People Close to Nature found on a
return visit last year that "...the last group of people on the island
who had lived untouched for millennia, have now almost lost their
culture, the Taut Batu. Only years ago a large part of the group lived
their traditional way in their caves in the southern part of [the island
of] Palawan. But the efforts of the American-Christian Mission " New
Tribal Mission" had the result that the groups were forced into
settlements, they were taught to build houses, to practice kaingin
[slash-and-burn agriculture] and to work. Today most of those
independent "Cave-people" have to earn their living through the
producation of mats made of rattan to be able to participate in the
'blessings' of civilisation like clothing, industrial sugar and
industrial white rice."
But none of this is new. Sporadic stories of abuse from the NTM have
been emerging for years, despite the fact that most of their activities
take place well hidden from outside scrutiny. Many stories have come
from the rainforests of South America where the missionaries found that
the only ways to convert nomadic communities was to force them into
camps, or reservations, driving out into the forest to roundup those who
do not come.
When Norman Lewis was researching his book "The Missionaries: God
against the Indians" in 1988, he visited one such camp in Paraguay to
find "...two old ladies lying on some rags on the ground in the last
stages of emaciation and clearly on the verge of death. One was
unconscious, the second in what was evidently a state of catalepsy...In
the second hut lay another woman, also in a desperate condition and with
untreated wounds on her legs. A small, naked, tearful boy, sat at her
side... The three women and the boy had been taken in a recent forest
roundup, the third woman having being shot in the side while attempting
In Paraguay, the NTM acted in collusion with the dictator Stroessner,
for who the policy of settlement camps and conversion fitted in nicely
with his plans for opening up the forest to mining and logging
The NTM are also accused of killing many more people, for example the
Ayoreo, also of Paraguay, by bringing western diseases into the area.
They are also not deterred even by government rulings; in 1998 the
Brazilian Association of Anthropology exposed the fact that the NTM were
trying to re-establish their reservation for the Zo'E indians, which was
closed down by the Brazilian state seven years previously because it
emerged that 40 people had died from respiritory diseases, and the NTM's
policy of keeping people at the camp by distributing industrialised
goods had increased dependancy on these products.
*NTM are based in Sanford, Florida, but have loads of bible schools,
language schools, aviation centres and so on all around the US and the
rest of the world. It's all on their website www.ntm.org
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