Brazillian authorities may charge a Christian missionary with “genocide” after he illegally came into contact with a remote tribe. Steve Campbell, from Maine, is being investigated after heading deep into the southern Amazon jungle with the intention of sharing the Gospel with ancient tribespeople.
Campbell, whose work was funded by the Greene Baptist Church, had been traveling through an area of the jungle that is inhabited by around 100 different tribes before he was picked up by FUNAI, a government agency responsible for investigating indigenous affairs.
The missionary allegedly entered an area occupied by the remote and protected Hi-Merimã tribe sometime last month. Officials believe that he was working with a neighboring group when he came into contact with the vulnerable tribespeople, who have limited immunity to outside diseases. As a result, Campbell put the ancient tribe in grave danger by making contact with them. According to Brazilian outlet, Folha de São Paulo, the missionary found the people group by mistake, after being led to their area by his GPS.
Still, the Brazilian authorities may now charge the man with serious offenses. Survival International, an organization that campaigns for indigenous peoples’ rights, has said Campbell could even be charged with “genocide” as a result of his reckless actions — a claim backed up in an official statement by FUNAI’s general co-ordinator, Bruno Pereira.
“If it is established in the investigation that there was an interest in making contact, using his relationship with other (tribes people) to approach the isolated (Hi-Merimã tribe), he could be charged with the crime of genocide by deliberately exposing the safety and life of the Merimãs,” Pereira declared, as reported by the Fraser Coast Chronicle.
“It’s a case of rights violation and exposure to risk of death to isolated indigenous population,” a FUNAI spokesman added in a statement issued to Reuters. “Even if direct contact has not occurred, the probability of transmission of diseases to the isolated is high.”
According to the Greene Baptist Church website, Campbell works as a missionary alongside his wife, Robin, in a bid to reach “the Jamamadi Indians in the Brazilian state of Amazonas,” noting that there work is “to help with medical, mechanical and countless other ministry opportunities with the Indians and missionary families.”
The case has striking similarities to the plight of 26-year-old missionary John Allen Chau, who was slaughtered by a remote Indian tribe after traveling illegally to an outcrop of islands in the Bay of Bengal last November.
Chau split opinion in the Christian community, with some calling him foolish and irresponsible for exposing the remote people group to deadly disease, while others heralded him as a martyr who followed the call of Jesus to “make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19).
Survival International hammered Campbell and other missionaries for following what it called a “primitive urge” to make contact with these vulnerable people groups.
“Fundamentalist Christian American missionaries must be stopped from this primitive urge to contact previously uncontacted tribes,” said the organization’s director, Stephen Corry. “It may lead to the martyrdom they seek, but it always ends up killing tribespeople.”
“I think I could be more useful alive . . . but to you, God, I give all the glory of whatever happens,” Chau wrote in one of his final journal entries before being killed, noting that he had asked God to forgive “any of the people on this island who try to kill me, and especially if they succeed.”
Faithwire has reached out to a family member for further comment on the situation surrounding Steve Campbell.