Las tres notas que siguen intentan dar pequeñas muestras de la relación/influencia de los misioneros de organizaciones que realizan estudios linguísticos y traducciones de la biblia en sudamérica.
Estas críticas severas ponen en discusión las verdaderas intenciones de estas delegaciones y en definitiva el resultado de una mirada científica con otros horizontes. Estudios que se comenzaron a implementar desde principios del siglo XX atravesados por diversas teorías inclusive fundacionales dentro de la lingüística antropológica o de la antropología lingüística.
Me permito plantear que es lícito dudar de las verdaderas intenciones de algunas investigaciones y de los aportes que las han sustentado y aún las sustentan. Ha habido demasiados ejemplos de utilización espúria de las ciencias sociales con fines que a menudo solo han servido para sojuzgar a las comunidades objeto de estudio.
En tiempos que se ve resurgir ciertas posturas retrógradas y el reciclaje de viejas ideas se vuelve menester repensar el rol de la periferia en la producción - re producción de contenidos científicos sin una postura crítica al respecto de las intenciones que se persiguen tras los resultados de las investigaciones.
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 countries
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 converted.
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 to escape."
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 interests.
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
In Paraguay’s jungle, no letup in battle for souls
By ALAN RIDING, Special to the New York Times
Published: April 01, 1987
About 30 newly converted Ayoreo Indians set off from a Protestant mission in northern Paraguay in late December to contact ''unreached'' members of their tribe whose tiny jungle settlement had been spotted from the air by a missionary pilot.
When they arrived, they were attacked and five of them were killed. But the others reportedly kept shouting from the edge of the community that they had come in peace to tell the tribesmen of ''a better life'' that awaited them outside the jungle. When the visitors finally left four days later, they were accompanied by 24 tribesmen from the village.
For the Florida-based New Tribes Mission, which runs the Campo Loro station where some 850 Zamuco-speaking Ayoreos now live, the arrival of the new group was celebrated as an important step toward the conversion of the entire tribe. ''It may take one or two months for those who come in to share the Word of God,'' the Mission's director, Fred E. Sammons, said.
On the other hand, critics of the New Tribes Mission, including lay anthropologists and rival Roman Catholic missionaries, have cited the death of the five Indians as evidence that American evangelists hunt down primitive Indians and destroy their culture in the name of converting them to Christianity. The ''unreached'' Indians have lived for centuries in nomadic hunting and fishing communities that have been pushed back with increasing speed by the advance of settled farming. The Battle Is Unabated
Yet, perhaps most dramatically, the incident and the angry exchanges that followed served to illustrate how, more than three centuries after European Jesuits first set up huge missions here to ''protect'' and convert the Indians, the battle for the souls of the indigenous peoples of Paraguay continues unabated today.
Apart from 60 Americans from the New Tribes Mission, there are Mormons, Mennonites, Anglicans and Lutherans as well as Catholic priests from the Franciscan, Oblate, Salesian and Divine Word orders, all competing to help and influence the 17 surviving Indian tribes, which today account for just 70,000 of the country's 3.5 million inhabitants.
As during the time of the Jesuits, who governed at least 200,000 Indians spread over 30 agricultural settlements before they were expelled from the Americas in 1769, many of today's Indians live in missions where they work the land under the guidance or guardianship of different - usually foreign - Christian groups.
The bitter clash between the New Tribes Mission and Catholic missionaries, however, stems from their contrasting evangelical approaches. While the American fundamentalists seek out ''unreached'' tribes, the Catholic groups concentrate on helping Indian communities that have been forced off their lands.
''The Indians live in fear, in fear of evil spirits and in fear of violent death because it's in their culture to kill,'' Mr. Sammons said. ''But when they come with us, they accept a new way of life. We help them physically to stand on their own feet and we have a spiritual program of teaching and preaching the Word of the Lord.'' Free to Leave Camps
''We never force our religion on anyone,'' he said, adding that the Indians are free to leave the camps and that many Ayoreos now working on nearby Mennonite-run farms are rapidly being integrated into the money economy.
Catholic missionaries, on the other hand, argue that the effect of quick conversions is to cut the Indians off from their cultural heritage and to reduce them quickly to cheap rural labor. ''For a long time, it was the Catholic tradition to impose religion in much the same way,'' said Bishop Mario Melanio Medina, whose diocese includes many Indian communities.
NEW TRIBES MISSION
HUNTS DOWN LAST OF PARAGUAYAN INDIANS
Five hundred years ago the military invasion of South American Indian lands began with the arrival of the Spanish and Portuguese conquistadores. The invasion was accompanied by a religious crusade -- an often violent battle for souls in the fertile fields of the "New World." The battle for these tribal lands and people continues today with modern techniques and traditional cruelty.
Remarkably, despite five centuries of persecution, enslavement, and disease, there are some "wild" Paraguayan Indians who have managed to evade contact with society.
But now the New Tribes Mission (NTM) is in the midst of writing the final tragic chapter to the Indian's history. The New Tribes Mission is a Florida-based organization with an uncompromising message that promises salvation to the "born-again" and the "unending punishment of the unsaved," including tribal people who have the misfortune to die before they are "reached." With over 2,500 missionaries and a $12.5-million budget for "tribal evangelism and indigenous church plant," the New Tribes Mission operates in some 16 countries worldwide.
Using their own pilots to spot Indian camps from the air, NTM organizes "commando squads" which go on manhunts to capture the remaining groups of tribal people who live in the forests. Once the Indians have been captured they are transported back to the NTM base camp, where the process of "saving" them begins. After this process is completed, the "tame" Indians are then sent out to hunt down their remaining "tribal families."
Forest clashes with the "wild" Indians are often violent. In one recorded case, a mission Indian named Ahinacay was clubbed and speared to death. With his traditionally long hair shorn and wearing the clothes of the white man, his former clansmen had identified him with the enemy. He had been killed by members of his own Indian family. Ironically, he had joined the mission party not out of evangelical fervor, but simply to renew contact with his family.
Many of the captured Indians do not survive the ordeal. The trauma of capture, a lack of adequate medical care, and the sudden change of diet soon take their toll.
NTM missionaries in Paraguay enjoy a close relationship with the Paraguayan government. Unlike the Catholic Church, they have never criticized the repressive, 34-year regime of President Alfredo Stoessner. The government welcomes the NTM missionary presence since its efforts have finally opened up the last Indian lands to oil men, loggers, settlers, and cattle ranchers.
NTM activities have attracted repeated criticism from other church groups, Indian organizations, anthropologists, and Survival International, a human rights organization that campaigns to defend tribal peoples' rights.
Despite the criticism, the New Tribes Mission has refused to give any assurance that it will not renew its manhunts against the last group of just 21 Totbiegosode Indians, the remaining forest nomads who are still struggling to defend their lands and maintain their traditional way of life.
Five hundred years later the work of the Spanish conquistadores is being completed in Paraguay by Florida fundamentalists.
BRIARPATCH, October 1988, "Commandos for Christ," by Luke Holland, pp 26-28.