Missionaries kicked out of Venezuela...
Missionaries' Mission at Issue
Venezuela's president is kicking out evangelists he says are spying for the U.S. Their role among the indigenous tribes has been controversial.
By Chris Kraul, Times Staff Writer
PUERTO AYACUCHO, Venezuela — Earnest and God-fearing, jungle missionary Gary Greenwood may not look like a spy for the CIA. But Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez says the lanky young man from central Michigan is no less than an advance scout for an imminent U.S. invasion of this South American country.
Last month, Chavez ordered the expulsion of about 200 evangelical Baptist missionaries from the country's Amazon rain forest. He accused them of spying, mining, exploiting indigenous tribes and using jungle airstrips for "imperialist penetration." Last week, the missionaries were given 90 days to leave the zone.
Greenwood laughed off the charges and said there was no time for espionage in Cuwa, the isolated Yanomami Indian village where he and his family lived for four years. Although he and other missionaries acknowledged that their primary goal was to convert Indians to Christianity, the 33-year-old said he spent most of his days helping them: drilling wells, fixing outboard motors and making their huts more livable.
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Something that jumps out at me:
Ingrid Turon, a city council member and member of the Yeguana indigenous community in the village of Toki, six hours by outboard motorboat from here, said those who oppose missionaries want to deprive indigenous people of the advantages of modern life.
"For them, we are like animals in the zoo that people should pay to come see, so they can charge admission, publish their books and take pictures," Turon said. "They want to deny us the progress that they want, that the entire world wants."
But anthropologist Isam Madi, who favors the presence of the missionaries, fears that the new government impulse will fade after local elections in December. He warned that death rates among the Yanomami and other tribes, which have fallen with the presence of missionaries such as Sarah Greenwood, would rise again, especially among newborns and infants, once the missionaries left.
"Yes, there is a cultural change that comes with missionaries, but I prefer the cultural change if it comes with a lower death rate," said Madi, who runs a charity called Foundation for Indigenous Democracy in Santa Elena, Bolivar state
I realize that missionaries will change some things about the culture they are among, but which is better, going in and studying them without helping or going in with some sort of agenda, but helping them even if they don't do what you ask?