Response to Daniel Biasetto and to the newspaper O Globo

Missão Novas Tribos do Brasil -- MNTB (New Tribes Mission of Brazil) publicly expresses its indignation against the reports published on the 9th and 13th of this month by Daniel Biasetto, journalist of newspaper O Globo. The true facts are these: 

Biasetto repeatedly makes the accusation that missionary Jevon Rich continues to remain in the indigenous area, challenging the statement of Edward Luz, president of MNTB, that all the organization’s missionaries had left the indigenous area. In fact, Rich and two other missionaries left the Vida Nova community on Monday, March 23. On Friday, March 20, MNTB issued a policy requiring all its missionaries to leave all indigenous areas, which, in fact, occurred, corroborating the information from Luz. The missionaries left the Marubo area 17 days before the first report by Biasetto. He was expressly informed about this by journalist Eliana Camejo, from the MNTB department of communications, who also sent him a photo of the missionary already in the city. Biasetto didn’t believe it and decided to publish his material anyway. The alleged account of O Globo falls apart in the face of documented evidence and testimony of Marubo people who live in the city of Cruzeiro do Sul, state of Acre.

The O Globo journalist maliciously insists on associating the missionary presence in the indigenous area with the threat of coronavirus to the Marubo population. However, when New Tribes Mission of Brazil conscientiously asked missionaries to leave the village, the north region was not at peak stage of the pandemic as stated; in Rio Branco, capital of Acre, the first cases of COVID-19 occurred only on March 27 and in Cruzeiro do Sul only on April 12. Therefore, the claim that the missionaries pose a risk to the Marubos is malicious. 

The report also alleges the contradiction of the MNTB president, who had stated the missionaries left the indigenous area at the end of February. In reality, it was a dishonest conclusion of the O Globo journalist, because Edward Luz had notified, through the Department of Communications, that the missionaries had begun to leave indigenous areas (not only in the Javari River Valley) in February, which, in fact, occurred. Biasetto didn’t speak personally with Luz, but received all the information through MNTB journalist Eliana Camejo, who did her job with the integrity and ethics expected of journalists, but was not treated in the same manner. 

When referring to the Javari River Valley, the journalist declares that MNTB entered an area of isolated people, convincing readers that the missionaries were deliberately jeopardizing the survival of these indigenous people. Wrong! What he intentionally did not highlight is that in the Javari River Valley, there are also non-isolated people, like the Mayoruna, Kulina, Kanamari and the Marubo, who have been in contact with Brazilian society for a long time. Vida Nova is a Marubo community which has had 

missionary presence for more than 60 years. It is not a recently contacted group, much less isolated. The Javari River Valley indigenous land was demarcated in 2001, but missionaries had lived there long before. Anthropologist Júlio César Melatti, on his field research trip in 1974, mentions the action of missionaries in helping the Marubos when they could have been wiped out by tuberculosis. Contrary to what O Globo claims, MNTB does not work with isolated people in the Javari River Valley nor has it posed any threat to the communities who live in the Vida Nova region.

The journalist is also wrong in saying that MNTB entered the area on its own and disregarded the rules of operations established by ANAC. As already mentioned above, the area of operation of MNTB in the Javari Valley is not among the isolated people, but among a well-known community of indigenous people who travel a lot to cities, towns and nearby villages. Not only the local indigenous leadership but also FUNAI’s coordination in Atalaia do Norte, state of Amazonas, as well as the Union of Indigenous Peoples of Javari Valley (UNIVAJA) have been aware of the missionary presence for a long time. Therefore, the work of MNTB among Marubos is not only known but also recognized for its respect, friendship and for the good it contributes to the communities. 

The flight for the withdrawal of the missionaries took place within all legal guarantees and did not violate rules of ANAC or the Airspace Control Department (DECEA), which did not issue NOTAM (communication on changes and temporary restrictions with an impact on operations) prohibiting take-offs at the time of the flight plan. The aircraft landed at Vida Nova with authorization previously signed by the indigenous leadership, which serves as proof document for both the landing permit and the record of the departure of the missionaries on March 23. So again – the O Globo report did not do justice to the facts. In fact, it says that “a local health worker, who kept his identity confidential, told O Globo that between the last days of March and the first days of April, there were at least three trips by the same helicopter to the region of Javari Valley.” The source that O Globo quotes is completely wrong and, as already mentioned, there are documentary, testimonial and technical evidences (DECEA) that the last operation in Javari Valley occurred on March 23.

The report also says that the lawsuit filed by UNIVAJA “is based on complaints revealed by O Globo about religious people attempting to invade indigenous lands to try to contact isolated peoples ... besides religious people from the Evangelical Mission, Missão Novas Tribos do Brasil”. The newspaper’s complaint involving MNTB is, at the very least, mistaken. According to the UNIVAJA lawyer and plaintiff, Missão Novas Tribos do Brasil was named in the action due to information that the missionary was still in the indigenous area, which – as already proved – he was not. Thus, the newspaper O Globo, through its reporter, rendered a huge disservice.

Finally, Daniel Biasetto posted a video with aerial images of the helicopter flying over a jungle area with the captions “A group of missionaries bought a helicopter to ... evangelize Indians who have not yet had contact with civilization ... Missionaries entered an area of isolated Indians without authorization ...,” leading the reader to believe that it was an illegal action. Biasetto used private images of the organization without authorization, and, taken out of context, led to error. The images are related to flights to a bilingual village outside the indigenous area (not yet demarcated), landing in a location in Asia and photos of three missionaries traveling on the Purus River in 2017, not at all related to isolated groups.

Anápolis, April 16, 2020 

Edward Gomes da Luz 

President of MNTB