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Neil Palmer
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Neil Palmer
World News

Amazon missionaries accused of putting unreached tribes at risk in helicopter project

by Heather Preston

A US Christian missionary group has been accused of threatening the lives of indigenous Amazonians through its new helicopter project to evangelise to unreached tribes.

Ethnos360 has received backlash from a number of NGO's, who claim its planned flights could spread diseases, wiping out entire tribal communities.

It comes as far-right Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro seeks to increase logging and mining in the region through controversial new policies which could put the Amazon rainforest and its inhabitants at risk.

He appointed former Ethnos360 missionary, Pastor Ricardo Lopes Dias as head of the government's program to protect isolated tribes in February, a move that has been met with criticism from NGO's and government officials.

Speaking at the time of the appointment, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, the UN special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous people, said: "This is a dangerous decision that may have the potential to cause genocide among isolated indigenous people."

Survival International disapproves of Ethnos360's helicopter project arguing that isolated groups could face extinction as a result of outside interference. 

"It's now clear that there's been a conscious decision by the Brazilian government to open up indigenous territories to evangelical missionaries, as a key step in the takeover of their lands and the exploitation of their gold, minerals, timber and other resources," said Sarah Shenker, campaign coordinator at Survival International.

"If it's not stopped, many tribes will be wiped out," she said in a statement.

Ethnos360 mission statement says it seeks to see a "thriving church of every people" in accordance with the book of Matthew's Great Commission to "make disciples of all nations".

According to its website the purpose of the Brazil helicopter flight program is to enable the organisation "to serve all our current missionaries in the region and open the door to reach ten additional people groups living in extreme isolation."

"The helicopter will furnish a refreshingly viable network to sustain ministry teams by providing transportation to their ministry locations," it states.
 

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