Christian missionary could face genocide charges
An American missionary spreading his beliefs to remote tribes in Brazil has been questioned over his contact with a previously isolated tribe and could be charged with genocide, according to reports.
Steve Campbell has been questioned over an illegal journey he made into the protected area in a remote part of the southern Amazon in Brazil. The area is occupied by the Hi-Merimã tribespeople.
Mr Campbell is a missionary who receives funding from the Greene Baptist Church. He has been inhabiting indigenous land that is occupied by around 100 different tribes for the past month, according to reports. He was questioned by Funai, a local government body who investigate indigenous affairs.
The case against the missionary is still being investigated the Brazilian Federal Police and the public prosecutor.
Mr Campbell has claimed that he made the expedition to the remote region at the request of the Jamamadi people, who he is in contact with, as they wanted to learn to use GPS navigators. During this expedition he encountered the isolated Hi-Merimã tribe.
For this, Brazilian officials say Mr Campbell could be charged with a slew of offences, including genocide.
The Hi-Merimã people have previously rejected contact with the outside world and little is known about the remote tribe.
"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," says Bruno Pereira, a general co-ordinator at Funai.
Mr Pereira went on to explain that the group is at great risk of mass death from small infections like the flu or conjunctivitis, and that outsiders needed to "respect the self-determination of these people."
"It's a case of rights violation and exposure to risk of death to isolated indigenous population," said another statement from Funai.
"Even if direct contact has not occurred, the probability of transmission of diseases to the isolated is high."
According to a Brazilian website, Mr Campbell has lived in the area since 1963 and is working with his mission to translate the bible into the indigenous Jamamadi language. Campbell is married and his wife Robin and two daughters also live in the area.
According to reports, Mr Campbell has "changed the routine" of the hundreds of native Jamamadi tribes people and by learning the language, his influence has been great.
There are reports he has engaged in trade in local villages and begun selling soap and rice.
Previous policies in Brazil favoured the protection of isolated indigenous tribes, however under the rule of new far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, incursions into territories are expected to become more common.
Mr Bolsonaro's plans for Brazil include deforestation to make way for planning and the forcible removal of indigenous communities.
Mr Campbell is said to have written letters to his family, requesting they not "blame the natives if I am killed," according to The Daily Mail.
A US missionary was killed two months ago as he attempted to make contact with an isolated and reclusive Stone Age tribe on an island in the Indian Ocean.
John Allen Chau was killed by arrow attack after repeatedly accessing the North Sentinel island - which is home to the ancient Sentinelese tribes people - by fishing boat. The Sentinelese are a protected people, thought to have lived on the remote island without contact from the outside world for 30,000 years.
Mr Chau's plan was to spread the teachings of the bible to the Stone Age tribe.
Indian authorities have no current plans to retrieve the 26-year-old's body, with fears of provoking further conflict with the Sentinelese "unacceptably high".