Health & Medicine

Amazon infanticide

This story is a part of

Human Needs

This story is a part of

Human Needs


Cemitério Santa Esperança - Morretes - PR - Brasil (image: py5hc/Flickr)

In the Amazon there is an epic culture clash involving missionaries and ancient tribes that for centuries, have had little contact with the outside world.  

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"The tradition that is at the center of this controversy is infanticide.  Everybody on both sides of this controversy stipulates to the fact that Indians way out in the jungle, sometimes days away from the nearest town have for centuries, perhaps millenia, practiced infanticide. That means when a baby who is born that is severely deformed, sometimes that baby will be killed by the mother," says Dan Harris, ABC News correspondent and anchor.  "People who defend the Indians will say that this is done because these children cannot survive out in the jungle.  

This issue has made its way up to the Brazilian legislature, where lawmakers are debating a bill banning infanticide.

Harris continues,"(Evangelical Christian missionaries) have now taken this issue, and they have started to run with it.  They are pushing this issue with a movie that they have made with American film director.  They are pushing this issue with the Brazilian government, and they have turned it into a national and now an international issue.

"This is one of the most thorny, controversial issues I have come across as a journalist.  On the one hand, how can anyone defend the killing of children?  Who can defend that?  Nobody can, not even the traditional defenders of the Indians.  

"On the other hand, the missionaries are now taking this issue and pushing it to the highest of levels, have been accused of a cynical ploy to justify their attempts to convert Indians and in the process, destroy their culture.  So you've got two very potent arguments.

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