22. NEW TRIBES MISSION HUNTS DOWN LAST OF PARAGUAYAN
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.
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
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.
October 1988, "Commandos for Christ," by Luke Holland, pp 26-28.