The Missionaries: God Against the Indians
By Norman Lewis
The Missionaries is a travelogue by British journalist Norman Lewis recounting his visits in the fifties, sixties and seventies to remote regions of Vietnam and Latin America. His purpose is highlighting the systematic genocide of indigenous tribes during this period and the role played by evangelical missionaries (with close CIA collaboration) in evicting native peoples from land US corporations sought to exploit it.
As a prologue, Lewis describes the English invasion and occupation of Tahiti in 1767. English missionaries spent seven fruitless years trying to voluntarily convert native Tahitians to Christianity. They eventually resorted to force, collaborating with colonial police to execute natives who refused to convert and outlaw cultural practices such as dancing, tattooing, surfing and wearing flowers. The usual sentence for engaging in such practices was hard labor on the roads.
Over the next 25 years, the British and French governments successfully colonized all the South Pacific islands and virtually extinguished all native culture.
The book fast forwards to World War II, when the invention of the caterpillar tractor allowed Europeans and Americans to finally penetrate inaccessible jungles in South East Asian and Latin America – enabling them to kill and displace even more indigenous populations.
Lewis focuses mainly on the two most powerful missionary organizations: the Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL) and the New Tribes Missions (NTM). Both assisted the CIA and their puppet dictators in displacing thousands of indigenous groups from the jungles of Columbia, Peru, Venezuela, Brazil and Paraguay. The evidence he lays out directly implicates these missionary groups in the slaughter (in some cases by aerial bombardment), enslavement and forced prostitution. In most cases, individual missionaries had their own commercial stake in colonizing these regions (eg selling food to native populations following the destruction of their jungle habitat and hiring out their female children as domestic servants and prostitutes).
The callous attitude (towards the enslavement and extermination of their converts) of these so-called men of God is quite astonishing. They rationalize their actions based on the “inevitability” of native assimilation. If the transition to civilization kills most of them, so much the better. By baptizing them, the missionaries can ensure they go straight to Heaven.
Once Mexico, Ecuador, Brazil, Panama and Columbia ousted their US-sponsored military dictators, all five countries banned both the SIL and the NTM, which were ultimately denounced by both the UN and the Organization of American States (OAS) for violating the UN Genocide Convention.
People can read a more detailed account of the CIA/SIL collaboration to open up Latin America to US corporate interests in Thy Will Be Done the Conquest of the Amazon: Nelson Rockefeller and Evangelism in the Age of Oil