US Missionary Plans Trip To Isolated Tribes During COVID

Story By: Alex Cope, Sub Editor: Joseph Golder, Agency: Newsflash

This American missionary has been accused of planning an illegal trip to visit isolated Amazonian tribes as experts worry it could lead to the spread of coronavirus within the indigenous communities.

American missionary Andrew Tonkin has reportedly been investigated for two attempted trips to isolated Amazonian tribes in 2014 and 2019 and experts claim he is planning another illegal trip to the Javari Valley in the Amazonas state in northern Brazil.

The leaders of the Maruno and Mayoruna tribes, who are protected by a no-contact policy established by the Brazilian constitution in 1988, claim that Tonkin met with converted indigenous people and members of the ‘Frontier International’ group to plan a trip to their territory.

Newsflash/Andrew Tonkin

Frontier International defines itself as a “free will Baptist Ministry” on its website.

An unnamed indigenous person who reportedly had access to the meeting told local newspaper Globo: “They are buying torches and equipment to try to go in again. Andrew said that he already received authorization from the heavens up above, and there is no higher law that can stop him entering (the territory).”

The Union of Indigenous Peoples of the Javari Valley (UNIVAJA) confirmed that they had been advised of the alleged plans.

Newsflash/@Funaioficial

Paulo Marubo, a spokesperson for the group said: “They have been promoting meetings with some indigenous people in Atalaia do Norte, especially the catechised ones, with the purpose of organizing an illegal entry into the Javari Valley Indigenous Land.”

Globo report the missionaries, including Tonkin and pastor Josiash Mcintyre plan to use a seaplane owned by local religious leader Wilson Kannenberg to reach the tribes.

The Federal Public Ministry said that they are currently investigating 21 complaints involving religious missions in Indigenous Lands.

Indigenous leader Marubo expressed concern that missionaries are attempting to reach isolated groups during the COVID-19 pandemic.

He said: “Our concern is that in the context of a coronavirus pandemic, there is still the insistence of evangelical fundamentalist groups working to this end, (it is) an irresponsible and criminal attitude.”

The National Indian Foundation (FUNAI) announced that in the face of the global pandemic: “All activities that involve contact with isolated indigenous communities are suspended”.

The Federal Public Ministry confirmed that they are investigating a case of “attempted invasion” against Tonkin.

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Alex Cope

I am a senior writer and editor of the Golders news agency specialising in sports news from around the world.