Fundamentalist missionaries make regular visits to recently-contacted group

March 2, 2006

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The controversial American fundamentalist missionary organisation the New Tribes Mission (NTM) is making weekly visits to a group of isolated Ayoreo-Totobiegosode Indians first contacted in 2004.

The group of 17 men, women and children emerged from the scrubby forests of western Paraguay in 2004 in search of water. Colonists had penetrated their remote forest home and were using the permanent waterholes for their cattle, thus preventing the Indians from making use of them.

The group are the close relatives of other Totobiegosode Indians forced out of the forest in two controversial incidents, in 1979 and 1986. On both occasions missionaries of the New Tribes Mission assisted in the contact expeditions; several Ayoreo died as a result of these encounters.

Visits to the most recently-contacted group, who have now returned to the forest and are living with other Ayoreo in a newly-established community called Chaidi, are supposed to be closely regulated to avoid the Indians catching diseases to which they have no immunity. But the NTM recently confirmed that, 'Each week missionary John Keefe and two Ayore (sic) men go to Chaidi to teach evangelistic Bible lessons to a group of Ayores (sic) who emerged from the jungle in March 2004.'

The NTM described a typical session:

'As John taught about the Ten Commandments he held up a mirror, showing the Ayores how he could look into it and see himself. Then he took mud and spread it all over his face. The people thought it was hilarious, but John brought out the seriousness of the lesson. He told them how, in the mirror, he could see the dirt all over his face and that God's Law was like a mirror. It showed people how they are dirty (sinful) before God.'