A judge in Brazil blocked the appointment of a former Christian missionary and pastor to head the country’s federal indigenous affairs agency after concerns were raised by advocacy groups that oppose evangelical outreaches to tribes in the Amazon.
On May 22, a federal regional court judge struck down the appointment of Ricardo Lopes Dias to head the Uncontacted Indians’ Unit of the Indigenous Affairs Agency.
Dias spent over 10 years with the evangelical mission-sending agency New Tribes Mission, which is now Ethnos360. The group’s missionaries have engaged in efforts to contact unreached people groups and tribes deep in the Amazonian rainforest and elsewhere across the globe.
In February, Dias was appointed by the Bolsonaro government to head the agency, a selection that drew the ire of uncontacted tribal advocacy groups, such as Survival International.
Survival International staunchly opposes evangelical activities in the Amazon, claiming that past attempts by missionaries to contact tribal groups have brought death and disease to those communities because their bodies lack immunity to common illnesses.
In February, federal prosecutors filed a motion in court to reverse Dias’ appointment. They argued that it constituted a conflict of interest and could risk “genocide and ethnocide” if the appointment leads to a reversal of Brazilian policy banning forced contact with uncontacted groups.
In his ruling, Judge Antonio Souza Prudente agreed that Dias’ appointment and connection to New Tribes Mission was a “clear conflict of interest” and would put Brazil’s policy of no forced contact with uncontacted tribal groups in jeopardy. The policy has been in place since 1988.
According to a statement from the regional attorney’s office, the judge argued that Dias had already taken steps that violate the rights of indigenous groups.
“Historically, missionaries have sought to promote contact with isolated and recently contacted indigenous peoples to evangelize them, which goes against a consolidated policy in Brazil,” the judge wrote in the ruling.
According to the regional attorney’s office, the judge also ruled that the position that Dias was nominated for is instructed to “implement a non-assimilationist and non-integrationist policy.”
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SOURCE: Christian Post, Samuel Smith