Logo: Solidarity South Pacific

NTM Missionaries Kicked Out

The article below concerns the "New Tribes Mission" which has been a focus for those acting in solidarity with "Solidarity South Pacific" in the past.

The New Tribes Mission's UK HQ in North Cotes, Lincolnshire was raided a few years ago by about 50 activists concerned with it's activities. A couple of years later people went back to leaflet the area. SSP has mentioned this horrendous evangelical missionising in several articles.

See the SSP archive, New Tribes Mission page or general Mission page on Eco-action, or refer to past SSP newsletters for more info on their activities.

CARACAS, Oct 12 (IPS) - Venezuela will expel the U.S. evangelical group New Tribes Mission, which has been active in indigenous communities along the southern border with Colombia and Brazil since 1946, President Hugo Chávez announced Wednesday.

"They will leave Venezuela," said the president. "They are agents of imperialist penetration. They gather sensitive and strategic information and are exploiting the Indians. So they will leave, and I don't care two hoots about the international consequences that this decision could bring.

New Tribes, an evangelical organisation that has long had close ties with the U.S.-based Summer Institute of Linguistics, is active in a number of countries in Asia and Latin America, and in Venezuela has focused its efforts on the Yanomami, Ye'kuana and Panare indigenous groups and other ethnic communities in the southern part of the country.

The Summer Institute of Linguistics was founded in 1934 with the declared purpose of translating the Bible into indigenous languages.

Chávez was delivering collective land titles, boat motors, vehicles and credits to indigenous communities in the plains region in southern Venezuela on Wednesday, the date he had declared "day of indigenous resistance," when he made the surprising announcement on the New Tribes Mission in a nationally broadcast speech.

"I have seen reports and videos on the activity of these New Tribes. We don't want them here; we all form part of an old tribe," Chávez quipped.

Since the 1970s, New Tribes has drawn heavy criticism from many quarters, including leftist political groups, environmentalists, indigenous organisations, academics, Catholic Church leaders and even members of the military. The controversial group has been accused of prospecting for strategic minerals on behalf of transnational corporations and of the forced acculturation and conversion of indigenous people.

Sociologist and environmentalist Alexander Luzardo, who 20 years ago published a report on the New Tribes Mission's operations in the Amazon jungle, welcomed Chávez's decision.

He told IPS that the decision "complies with what is stipulated in the constitution of 1999, which establishes indigenous peoples' right to self-determination and to respect for their beliefs, values and customs.

He also said the expulsion of the group would be in line with the recommendations of numerous government and parliamentary reports that had warned about the group's activities in Venezuela.

"New Tribes has westernized indigenous people by force, while spreading a sense of shame and guilt, disguised as teaching the gospel: they taught the Panares that Satan had turned into a Panare Indian and that they were guilty of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ," said Luzardo.

The "New Tribes Mission" has been told to leave.