LATIN AMERICAEvangelizing among the Indians of Brazil
Fr. Robert DE VALICOURT recently followed a formation program of three weeks in order to work more competently among the Indians of Brazil.
During this course I chatted at length with an Indian chief who was nursing a serious illness. He told me how his people, the Surui, lived forty years ago. They lived in a primitive state, naked, nomadic, hunting and fishing to survive.
Contact with the “whites” (as they call non-Indians) was cruel. They were decimated by influenza, because their organism was not equipped for these white diseases. Now they are more numerous and engaged in farming cassava, corn, rice, black beans ... and some livestock. They have 250,000 hectares and live in 25 villages.
The children and adolescents study in both languages in public schools built in the villages. The youth are studying in the nearby town. Some are at the university. If you have problems with your computer, they will fix it for you. In forty years, they are progressively moving from the bow and arrow to modern studies.
On their reserve, there are still some isolated tribes which have never had contact with whites. The National Foundation for Indians, which knows that contacts are deadly, has adopted a different policy: there are reserves created to protect them. There are still 69 such small and isolated groups throughout Brazil. Unfortunately the gold diggers or timber merchants do not respect these reserves; they go into the forest and kill the defenseless Indians.
The Indians of Brazil are a tiny minority: about 350,000 among 190 million. But they are among those minorities who suffer discrimination. These are the poor whom Jesus prefers.