24th Sep, 2008

Infanticide in Brazil Highlights the Culture War

Back in June I wrote here about a horrible injustice taking place in Brazil, based on the story of Hakani, a young girl who had survived an attempted infanticide by her tribe through the love and courage of her older brother and the work of missionaries there who happen to be with Youth With A Mission (YWAM). Hakani, shown at www.hakani.org

ABC Nightline news will be covering this issue on tonight. There is an article describing the story on Nightline’s website here. Having read the print story, it definitely goes to great lengths to appear to be presenting “both sides” of the story. They make a point to say that the story of Hakani itself cannot be proved. The print article begins this way: “Missionaries Accuse Indians of Killing Babies – Critics accuse missionaries of exploiting the issue in attempt to convert tribes.”

Nightline writes about their interview with an official of the Brazilian’s Bureau of Indian Affairs, Antenor Vaz, in this way:

[T]he state is not “in favor of death” but . . . it would be dangerous to “criminalize indigenous actions.” The state, he says, should not use the moral judgments of modern culture “to regulate the indigenous cultures who have survived in this land a lot longer than us whites.” To do so, he says, risks subverting ancient cultures. “We are not defending death,” he said. “Very much to the contrary, we are defending the cultural survival of a people.”

You don’t have to work hard to read between those lines to realize that what he is saying that even where tribes are killing infants we will not intervene. The justification he uses is culture.

What’s amazing is that it isn’t just the Brazilian government who is saying this. Another interviewee of Nightline, Fiona Watson of Survival International, was quoted as follows:

“I’m not going to defend infanticide, but I think you have to understand [that in the context of Indian culture] it’s not considered murder. In fact, it’s often considered something which is a kind thing to do.”

Now, I cannot help but think of these apologies for the murder of innocent children as being the same as someone in the 19th Century saying this:

[August 25, 1858] “You cannot criminalize slavery in the South because it is a part of our culture. I’m not going to defend human ownership of other human beings, but you must understand that in the context of Southern American culture it’s not considered slavery. In fact, it’s kindness given the economic situation and structure in the South.”

The defenders of this heinous and murderous practice are all now turning their attacks on missionaries, accusing them of trying to destroy ancient civilizations. Nightline notes that Fiona Watson “argues, in fact, that evangelical missionaries have emerged as perhaps the greatest threat to the Indians’ survival.” They try to turn the issue from infanticide – overt murder of infants and toddlers – to the propriety of evangelization in the name of Jesus. Now, please know I, as a missionary and ambassador of Jesus Christ, unashamedly proclaim that sharing the Truth of Jesus is absolutely what I am all about. Jesus and His teachings are the answer to every problem in this world. Unconditional, sacrificial love is the answer.

That doesn’t mean that anyone who calls themselves a missionary does their work in perfect ways, but regardless of any mistakes made in the name of Jesus over the centuries, infanticide is wrong and should be stopped.

The issue is not evangelization; the issue is murder. And one can quickly see how defenders of “cultural protection” (infanticide) try to frame justice and love as a “threat to Indian survival.” Murder is murder no matter how a culture defines it.

The United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights is clear that infanticide is wrong. In fact, after stating that every human being born has the right to life, liberty and security of person, the UN’s declaration ends by saying “Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as implying for any State, group or person any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms set forth herein.” In other words, no State, Brazil or otherwise, can do anything to destroy the rights and freedoms set forth in this declaration. The Brazilian government’s attacks on YWAM’s efforts to prevent infanticide and save the lives of ill and disabled children in Brazil clearly violate the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

What can you do? I’m glad you asked.

1. Please take the time to watch Nightline News tonight. Pray that you will have discerning eyes to see the truth.
2. Pray specifically that lies will be exposed and that the truth will be clear. Pray that the Brazilian government will adopt laws that protect the rights of all children in their country, including those in indigenous Indian tribes. Currently, the laws specifically allow those tribes to do as they please within their tribes.
3. Go to this link. You will find a personal action kit describing what you can do, including emailing officials in the Brazilian government.
4. If you are a Facebook member, join the facebook group “Hakani.”
5. Read through all of the Hakani website at www.hakani.org.
6. Watch this trailer of the film “Hakani” produced by David Cunningham, the same director who made the ABC 9/11 Documentary. Understand that it has graphic images.

Please tell others about this video.

7. Link to this post on your blog.

Please let others know about this tragic injustice. Let’s stand in prayer against it and raise awareness as well.

UPDATE* – Check out this great post as well: “Killing Toddlers in the Name of Culture.”


Wow, I heard about this story a bit ago, but your post puts it together. I am devastated to read these quotes and stories. I will have a post up soon.

Joe Miller’s last blog post..Tackling The Elephant: Debt Forgiveness

Thanks, Joe. This really is a huge issue and those who are opposed to authentic Christianity really want to make this about what they consider to be the evils of proselytizing. It’s a challenge to missions and mission work.

Thank you for bringing this video to my attention. It, along with the quotes I used on my own post, illustrate clearly that there is a larger issue here. All of Western philosophy is on trial here because while these Indians are killing their children, the “enlightened” West finds it perfectly reasonable.

Joe Miller’s last blog post..Killing Toddlers In The Name of Culture


And frightening.

This is an alarming issue. Being a Christian, killing for me is a big no. We don’t have the right to kill anybody especially these children for the sake of cultural protection. Every human in this world has the right to live and no body has the right of killing anybody.

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