By Chrissy Stroop
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and U.S. President Donald Trump have a lot in common. Neither man has much respect for the rule of law. Bolsonaro enjoys buffoonishly attacking the press as much as Trump. Both have spread misinformation about the seriousness of COVID-19, thereby worsening the coronavirus crisis in both Brazil and the United States. (Although they’re evidently too cowardly to treat Trump the same way, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram have been known to remove especially egregious posts by Bolsonaro.) Finally, Bolsonaro, like Trump, is backed primarily by right-wing Christians, many of them charismatics of the sort represented by Trump’s spiritual adviser Paula White.
Just like Trump, Bolsonaro has appointed many such fundamentalists to important positions in his government. These appointments include placing evangelical former missionary Ricardo Lopes Dias at the head of the National Indigenous Foundation (FUNAI), Brazil’s governmental agency charged with overseeing the interests of Indigenous populations. In an attempt to quell controversy over his appointment, Dias has said, “I don’t see this as a mission or an opportunity to find new converts.” And yet American missionaries smell an opportunity.
Representatives of the missionary organization Ethnos360, until recently known as New Tribes Mission, “arrived in the Deni Indigenous Territory in Acre state in late February” and acquired a helicopter for the purpose of making contact with uncontacted tribes, according to reporting by Sue Branford for Yes! Magazine. Headed by Larry M. Brown and a member of the Forum of Bible Agencies International (along with better known organizations like the Jesus Film Project and Wycliffe Global Alliance), Ethnos360 focuses on converting “unreached groups.” It also happens to be precisely the organization with which Dias was an active missionary from 1997-2007.
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