Uncontacted tribespeople in Brazil seen from helicopter
Missionaries continue contacting remote tribes, despite the heightened risk of infecting them with COVID. Image via Gleilson Miranda/Secretaria de Comunicação do Estado do Acre.

Many of us are still stuck indoors, working from home and taking extra precautions to do our part to flatten the COVID curve and get life back to normal. Many non-essential businesses have been closed for months, and the current political battle is whether it’s even safe to send kids back to school or not.

But despite an international pandemic and the extremely high risk of spreading coronavirus, many missionaries are insisting their work must go on - no matter the danger.

Mission Possible

When COVID-19 first hit Brazil in March, the National Indigenous Foundation sent all non-essential workers away from indigenous zones, fearing that a single case of the virus would completely wipe out entire tribes. Only aid and medical workers remained, and so far, the indigenous tribes of the Amazon have remained safe from COVID. But last month, Brazil’s government made an exception for one group to visit the indigenous tribes: missionaries.

Those who protect the indigenous peoples of Brazil are worried that a rush of missionaries to the area might quite literally lead to mass death. “Their immunity is very low,” said Jandira Keppi of the Lutheran Diakonia Foundation. “The fundamentalists believe they must evangelize them for their salvation. This always meant death for the Indigenous peoples and their history proves it.”

Missionary work is even more dangerous for tribespeople now, because one can be an asymptomatic carrier of COVID and not even know it.

And it’s not just disease that advocates are worried about. Missionaries have long been the target of critics who argue that proselytizing completely erodes indigenous culture and beliefs. 

Sydney Possuelo, creator of Brazil’s National Indigenous Foundation, told Religion News Service that missionaries gain trust by offering gifts, like tools, and in exchange the indigenous people agree to listen to their message. “You attract them through their fragility, through the technical unbalance between our societies. That’s not exactly a Christian principle.”

Tragic Consequences

Mission trips during COVID-19 are shockingly commonplace; Many missionaries are seemingly acting as if we aren’t in the midst of a pandemic at all. Mission group Radius International recently made contact with the Amdu people of Papau New Guinea, again despite the high risk of COVID transmission.

Three days after this tweet, Buser, President of Radius International, tweeted that “By God’s grace, there are now members of [the Amdu people] who are reconciled to God, who no longer have their sins counted against them.”

Let’s just hope no one spread COVID to any of the Amdus or they might be meeting their (newly discovered) maker prematurely.

Missionary work isn’t only dangerous for indigenous peoples susceptible to modern diseases and viruses they have no immunities against. Often, indigenous groups are hostile to missionary workers, viewing them as foreign invaders and treating them as such. Two years ago, we wrote about John Chau, a Christian missionary who illegally traveled to North Sentinel Island in the Bay of Bengal to contact the remote Sentinelese people.

Chau made numerous attempts to contact the tribe, and each time was greeted with a volley of arrows. He documented each trip in his diary, writing that he tried to give the tribe fish and yelled to them, “My name is John, I love you and Jesus loves you." Chau was killed by the tribespeople and his body was never recovered for fear of further violence.

Is Spreading the Gospel Worth Spreading COVID?

In normal times, missionary work is controversial. During COVID, many argue it’s downright irresponsible. With immune systems generally unequipped to handle even the common cold, indigenous peoples are at extraordinary risk during COVID. Even a single transmission could prove catastrophic for an entire community. Instead of spreading the gospel, missionaries may prove more effective at spreading COVID-19.

But for those doing missionary work, they view it as a moral imperative. In their view, if they don’t show these remote tribes God’s grace, the tribespeople will go to Hell - through no fault of their own.

What is your reaction?

35 comments

  1. Alvin Rollins's Avatar Alvin Rollins

    We live in such an insane world now. It's not the indigenous tribes that need salvation it's the religious idiots that are in need of salvation. These so called Christians are violating one of the Ten Commandments "Tho shall not comment murder" because that's exactly what they're doing is committing murder by going there. These so called Christians are the ones in danger of their souls being condemned to hell for this murderous act. Just recently I heard someone say that Jesus never closed his church so they're not closing theirs. I've got news for all of these so called Christians Jesus didn't have a church here on earth. The church is in your heart (mind). So if you have a heart just stay away from each other and let death pass. Stop passing this virus and saying that you're doing this in the name of one you truly do not know "Jesus" . To be a Christian means to be Christ like. And this behavior is definitely not Christ like behavior.

    1. Robin Barbara Werner's Avatar Robin Barbara Werner

      Howdy After reading a few of these posts Alvin Rollins post makes sense to me Putting people at risk any people especially indigenous tribe members is paramount to sin These folks have remained remote for a reason Honoring them by not killing them with co-VD is the right thing Risking their lives with disease is not God like behavior Fanatic Evangelical types have certainly allowed all of us to see exactly how dangerous they are If you have missed it Turn on the news- read- Their brand of religion is terrifying and has nothing to do with God We witness their behavior daily I often look away as I consider them present day Medusa Not nice people Not kind , recently their behaviors have reached a fevered pitch and they will continue to show us that they are deserving of our prayers but not our following Also the comparison of indigenous people and folks that are mentally differently abled is difficult to read I think that is a good place for me to stop my reply

      With Gratitude and Respect,

      Rev. Robin

    2. Craig Steven Bernstein's Avatar Craig Steven Bernstein

      Bravo great reply Alvin

    3. Mary Ann Baggaley's Avatar Mary Ann Baggaley

      Nobody should be going near these people for they do not need saving for they are God's children. Didn't Jesus already die for our sins? These people are pure uncontaminated people I hope and pray that no one brought covid or any other diseases to these people. Hasn't anybody learned what happened to the native American people that were given gifts a blankets containing smallpox. So again people that think they know more than God does think they have the right to do this. After all these are God's children too please leave them alone.

  1. Paul J. Fumero's Avatar Paul J. Fumero

    Christian Missionaries are the most insane people I've heard of. These tribes have lived and survived without their religious christian CRAP! Why put them at risk of COVID-19 infection? We are already Immortal by our creation and are not in need of any saving. Can't save what can't be lost fools.

  1. SibylTheHeretic's Avatar SibylTheHeretic

    My experience has been that many Christians are narrow minded fanatics. They only hear what they want to hear, They should leave these people alone. God will take care of them. And don't eat the missionaries they are probably anti-vaxxers.

    1. Carl Bernard Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Bernard Elfstrom

      I agree with Sybil.

      1. Robin Barbara Werner's Avatar Robin Barbara Werner

        Agreed

    2. T Kosse`'s Avatar T Kosse`

      But if you really must eat the missionaries at least boil them in holy water first to purify them.

  1. Krystina S.'s Avatar Krystina S.

    It's always the Christians who go to beautiful, pristine and faraway places populated by unique indigenous peoples- and then kill them.

    1. T Kosse`'s Avatar T Kosse`

      All in the name of their "merciful" god. We will convert you all to Christianity even if it kill each and every one you. However you now can enter the kingdom of god since you are no longer pagan / heathens. May you rest in peace.

  1. Theresa Graveline Leduc's Avatar Theresa Graveline Leduc

    LEAVE THEM ALONE!!! They have their own religion, they don’t need yours!!! Another excuse for mass Annihilation of indigenous peoples. Get off your high horse and mind your own business. They are not asking you to come! Infect one and you have a MURDER Sentence on your hands. I know from experience, my indigenous family members were murdered the same way, infected with a virus they had no immunity towards!!! 😡🤬🥵😡

  1. The Right Reverend D. Batch's Avatar The Right Reverend D. Batch

    I wouldn't think God would condemn these People to Hell. I think they would be thought of as being in the same group as someone who is profoundly Mentally Challenged who is unable to understand. Look what was done to Native Americans by introducing Smallpox and other Old World Diseases. I would leave them alone.

    1. Lionheart's Avatar Lionheart

      “I think they would be thought of as being in the same group as someone who is profoundly Mentally Challenged who is unable to understand. “

      That is actually quite a statement! One could argue that those who have been conned by the worlds religions are also mentally challenged and unable to understand “logic and reason”. Just saying!

      🦁❤️

    2. Karu's Avatar Karu

      Thank you for referring to me "...as someone who is profoundly Mentally Challenged who is unable to understand." My ancestors have lived in balance with the world without your religion for thousands of years.

  1. Clay Serenbetz's Avatar Clay Serenbetz

    This is a continuation of the damage that Christian missionaries have done around the world for centuries. Another example of their dangers is the damage done to native Hawaiians starting in 1778 when Captain Cook introduced Christian's to Hawaiian culture. The missionaries arrived with their diseases and self-righteousness and nearly wiped out the Hawaiian people and their culture.

  1. Douglas Robert Spindler's Avatar Douglas Robert Spindler

    Christians are spreading covid faster than any other group. It's tragic that so many Christians believe God is more powerful that viruses and bacteria. God has only been around for 2,000 years, where viruses and bacteria have been here for 3.5 billion years. Sad that Christians think spreading the word of God and covid is more important than someone else's life that's been doing fine for thousands of years without God.

  1. Mya-Lia Sharizyn's Avatar Mya-Lia Sharizyn

    Their teaching about being humble to their god is written for two reasons that are obvious to me. The first is so they'll consciously act continuously submissive to the biblical writings and whatever their churches tell them. The second is to use their obvious humble-before-god ways as a trick to gain the favor of whoever they're attempting to convince and convert by how they speak, dress, move, obey, etc....Claiming it all to be evidence of the holy spirit being present in them, thereby enabling works of god to be performed thru them. When anything is going on in the lives of the unconverted, they are right there to point out that it's not in harmony with "the word", and that if they accepted "the word" as truth, they wouldn't have those issues any longer because the word is god and holds that kind of power. That, in a nut shell, is the BS inside the nutshell. I'd much prefer to have the original walnut, almond, pistachio, macadamia, coconut, and any and every OTHER kind of nut in that nutshell, but instead, they are removing the natural, original delicious food and replacing it with what they call spiritual food to live by, and in doing so are screwing up the minds, hearts, and lives of many. The whole world is LYING in the power of the wicked one - literally!!

  1. Carl Bernard Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Bernard Elfstrom

    I wish missionaries would go to Hell with that damn gospel! Only the fools who go looking for it want to hear about it. Those who get hurt by preaching it to those who don't seek it , only get what they deserve. When they ask me if I know Jesus l tell them we met in passing once, and thank the Goddess that's all it was. If they persist, I ask them if they've met the horned God, referring to the stainless steel horned God ring on my middle finger (sometimes raised, but usually with a clenched fist). So far, it hasn't had to go beyond that.

    1. T Kosse`'s Avatar T Kosse`

      Better yet send them all to North Sentinel Island which is one of the Andaman Islands, an archipelago in the Bay of Bengal. Let see just how well they do there in bringing the gospel.

      For those of you who never heard of the Indigenous tribes of North Sentinel Island

      Here a link to give you an idea what they are like.

      https://www.insider.com/sentinelese-tribe-contact-world-2018-11

  1. Richard Arriaga's Avatar Richard Arriaga

    “God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”” ‭‭John‬ ‭4:24‬ ‭NRSV‬‬ https://www.bible.com/2016/jhn.4.24.nrsv

    Let us not seek glory through our own merit. Let us lead by example and love our neighbor. It is the spiritual demonstration, not the physical one, that will lead people to God. Jesus died for us so we wouldn’t have to risk the lives of one another.

    1. Carl Bernard Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Bernard Elfstrom

      To me, when we're on planet Earth, in this dimension, it's the whole human experience of body, mind, spirit, and emotions all thrown into. We can't be spiritual by only focusing on spirit, but have to combine all aspects of ourselves, into one.

  1. Brenten Stevens's Avatar Brenten Stevens

    Ughhhhh here we have ignorant people so absorbed in their chosen faith to think they have a right to shove it down others throats . Keep your religion within your own community ... I was once a missionary out of East Texas we were in the South American including southern Mexico . I get so angry watching these people change their attitude in these tribes suddenly they were sales people . Here have some food and clothing but you must accept our god obver your own . After 3+ years of this toying with indigenous native peoples I turned on leadership . It cost me they sent me packing and I left them but returned to several tribal leaders to rebuke these evangelical miss leading groups . Told them to ignore their lies and keep your belief in tact . If a group of indigenous tribes have their own beliefs ( no violence against others only) they should be left alone . Their faith has worked for hundreds and in several tribes thousands of years . We should never ever spew from our mouths anything against their chosen faith . If you choose to live everyday helping them with whatever you can and should they ask about my faith I will share my beliefs but not expect to convert them for the sake of leaving them alone concerning their faith . As with America’s many many different faiths we still live together , work together , feel pain together ,loss , fear, love . As for bringing in a virus to a indigenous Tribe shame on you your killing everyone for your selfish ignorant ideals . Stay away period ....if you quarantine for a good month prior to contact with them I do mean stay away from anyone then proceed with caution but still keep your faith to yourself .

  1. Mark Shannon Parkhurst's Avatar Mark Shannon Parkhurst

    Indigenous tribes have been surviving on their own for hundreds and hundreds of years. It's written in the book of Lamentations, the Lilies of the fields are on their own and they're beautiful the animals they have everything they need they survived. If you replace the knowledge that they have of surviving then they get dependent on you. Now we have a bunch of filthy dirty sick individuals who are not cautious enough kamuning and helping them get their nature.

    1. T Kosse`'s Avatar T Kosse`

      I sorry but you lost me at: "kamuning and helping them get their nature." Please clarify what you mean by that

  1. Diana Heineck's Avatar Diana Heineck

    That we have the arrogance to think we can discern who is and who is not "Welcomed" is not a sign that there is any validity to such statements only proof of how low vibrating the species that would even consider this as a topic within our capacity.

    I had an NDE and now I never worry, need to discuss or question.

  1. Carla Ruth Robinson's Avatar Carla Ruth Robinson

    I'm sorry, but volleys of arrows are the least these "Christians" deserve. Nowhere in the Bible does Jesus say we should put others in danger, even to give them the Gospel. They are putting their self-glorification over love for others, and that is the worst of sins.

  1. TheRese Bourdeau's Avatar TheRese Bourdeau

    TRUTHFUL HISTORY HAS PROVEN THERE IS NOT A CONTINENT ON OUR PLANET THAT WAS NOT ASSULTED BY MISSIONARIES AND THEY BROUGHT GERMS & GENOCIDE WITH THEIR OFTEN  FORCED CHOICE OF "CONVERSION OR DEATH". 

    Please send these innocent, beautiful people, and the rest the 🌏, light and hope Universe and protect them from these diety propaganda hunters! 

    (And if you are interested in the REAL accounting look up Jared Diamonds book & later dicumentary "Guns, Germs & Steel".)

  1. Richard Lee Cornell's Avatar Richard Lee Cornell

    More North American Indians died of diseases then all the bullets ever fired at them. Consider that if they died off from this virus then their land can be grab, cut down and planted with valuable crops. Also you have the question of gold and oil.

  1. Robert Edward Szekely's Avatar Robert Edward Szekely

    God does not protect the flagrantly stupid.

    1. T Kosse`'s Avatar T Kosse`

      Really! The fanatical Evangelical seem to think god does.

  1. Gwendolyn Olympia Garrett's Avatar Gwendolyn Olympia Garrett

    I agree, Rev. Robin Barbara Werner

  1. Delphine S. Pillar's Avatar Delphine S. Pillar

    I think it is disgusting arrogance on their part, there has been so much damage done by those who claim moral or cultural superioty. How many people have been wiped out. They live a peaceful ,non-violent lifestyle, we can see how well that worked out for us. Remember Jim Jones, all the people Catholics murdered, the list could go on. Leave them alone!!! The sin is imposing yourself on what God has made. It makes me so sad to read this.

  1. Murion's Avatar Murion

    I'm writing With Respect To The Missionary-Post:[ Keeping, Within My Belief That in Giving My Perspective, I Must, Give It Within The Moral Code Of Humanity As Not Too Impinge On The Rights And Beliefs Of Others].

    First, I Respect The Efforts Of The " Missionaries", In Their Continued Effort Of Religious-Morale-Duty ,To Reach-Out To The Indigenous-People Based On Their-[ Missionaries]-Belief, That Every Human, Must Be Given The " Good-News" New Testament Message Of Saving Grace, For The Remission Of Any ill-Wills [ Sins/Errors] : " In Order, For The Indigenous Women,Men And Children ,Have A Chance At Becoming A Paradise-Citizen". For, The Missionaries, Are Truely Walking By Faith And Not By [A]. Statistics; [ B]. Facts ; Human-Reasoning Or Common-Sense And Against All Potential Accusations Of Intent.

    Secondly, I Respect The Expressions Reflected In Said " Blog-Post". There's Potential,For The Realization Of The Manifestation Of Servere Devastation Of The Indigenous -People [ Of, Whom The Missionaries,Are Trying Too Assist In Their State Of Spirituality. The Coronovirus Pandemic, Is A Real Threat Too Humanity Across The Totality Of The Crust Of This Earth.

    Surely, The " Writer" Of The " Blog Post" Is One That Believes In " Human-Rights" ...As Well As... " Human-Equality- With Respect ,Too The Health And Life, Of The Indigenous People".

    Thirdly, I Respect The Indingeous Peoples Choice -- To Not, Want To Be Manipulated In Their Centuries Old Customs ,Worships And/ Or Beliefs Systems. Yes, I'm Of The Perspective, That The Endeavors, Of The Missionaries, Would Subltely Impinge On The "Rights", " Beliefs", "Worship" And Way Of Life.

    Thus, The Indingeous-People, Had The Right To Bare-Arms.

    As, You've Probally Come To Understand, That All Three Aforementioned Choices And Consequences ; Every Action And Reactions And/Or Belief :

    " For The Benefit Of The All" Inaccordance With Each One's Internal "Heart Of Hearts" And Being Of Beings" Temple.

    I, Enjoyed The Blog-Post !

    Sincerely And Respectfully

    Min. William Wise Murray, IV.

    1. T Kosse`'s Avatar T Kosse`

      Read this articale it give a very good reason why we should never interfere with lives of indigenous tribes and what a devastating impact we can have on their lives

      https://www.scmp.com/news/asia/south-asia/article/3099153/coronavirus-hits-indias-remote-great-andamanese-tribe

      https://www.survivalinternational.org/tribes/sentinelese

      https://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/fears-rise-coronavirus-has-hit-remote-tribe-after-cases-confirmed-n1239045

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