Christian MissionariesMissionaries have always held a heroic and romantic place within the Christian imagination. Even today churches regularly collect contributions for the mission field. The reality, of course, is very different. From its very beginnings, Christian missionaries have inflicted tremendous harm on the peoples they "witnessed" to.
In the past, the damage done by missionaries were shared equally between the Protestant and Catholic churches. Today, most of the damage is done by fundamentalist, pentacostal and evangelical protestant sects, mostly from the US, Canada and Europe. Numbering about 80,000 strong  these fundamentalist missionaries spread like locusts throughout the world. Their destruction of native cultures, and in some cases actually causing the deaths of these natives, can only be described as a modern cultural and genocidal holocaust.
We will look at missionary activities in all the major "mission fields" of the world
The South PacificWe start our catalog of the brutality of Christian missionaries in the island of Tahiti. In 1797, thirty years after the discovery of Tahiti by Wallis, the first missionaries landed on the island. The missionaries, sent by the London Missionary Society, tried for seven years to convert the natives but were unable to make any headway.
It was then that they discovered, as if by miracle, the proper method of converting the Tahitians. They discovered that the local chief, Pomare, liked alcohol (distilled by the missionaries) - so much that he became an alcoholic. Addicted to the distilled spirit (perhaps the holy spirit), Pomare agreed to back the missionaries in their work of conversion. Pomare, supplied with western firearms, easily subdued his native opponents. Upon his victory over his rivals, the whole island was forcibly converted in one day.
Then the process of inculcating "Christian virtues" began. Persistent unbelievers, those who refused to be converted, were executed. Singing was banned (except for hymns) and all forms of adornment, flowers or tattoo were disallowed. Of course, surfing and dancing were not permitted as well. The punishment for breaking any of these rules included, among others, being sentenced to hard labour.
Within thirty years of missionary control, the population of Tahiti fell from an inital estimate of 20,000 to 6,000.
From Tahiti, the missionaries moved on to the neighbouring islands. They employed the same tactic that had served them so well in Tahiti: they would introduce the local chief to alcohol, made him and alcholic, convert him to Christianity and then leave it to the chief to convert the locals. After converting the majority the minority that refused to convert were persecuted and sometimes executed. On the island of Raratonga, men were conscripted into the missionary police to help eliminate the remaining idolators. On another island, Raiatea, a man who was able to forecast the weather by studying the behaviour of fish was executed for witchcraft.
This was how the South Pacific was Christianized. 
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Perhaps the most famous missionary to Africa was David Livingstone (1813-1873). Livingstone spoke of "the white man's burden" to evangelize and civilize the peoples of Africa. (Nobody bothered the ask the Africans what they thought of this!). A rarely know fact about Livingstone is that, as a missionary, his mission to Africa was a complete failure. Throughout his many years in Africa he made only one known convert. Even this convert, Sechele, eventually lapsed from his faith. Yet it was Livingstone, through his book Missionary Travels and Researches in South Africa (1857) and his lectures in England, who introduced a whole new group of Europeans to the "romance" of missionary activities.
Yet, in reality missionary activities were anything but romantic. Many of the missionaries' attempts to free slaves and teach them Christianity amounted to no more than changing one form of slavery to another. Given below is an account of how the Holy Ghost Fathers, a missionary group in the second half of the ninenteenth century, went about "freeing" and Christianizing the slaves:
The anthropologist Jaques Maquet had called missionary activities in Africa a "religious commando attack, aimed at extirpating 'superstitious and idolatrous' practices and converting whole groups." 
The missionaries in general have little respect for African cultures and regard their peoples as ignorant savages. One early twentieth century methodist missionary in Umtali, Zimbabwe, wrote of the people he had set out to evangelize: "Heathen and naked as new born babies, and as ignorant as beetles." The solution was simple, educate the children away from their parents and give them western clothing to wear to cover their naked bodies. As another missionary from Umtali wrote in a letter to the US in 1916: "Heathen mothers do not know much, but many boys and girls go to our schools now and are begging to read God's word and write and to take care of their bodies and be clean and dress like the people of America." These "heathen" boys and girls were also given "Christian" names like Kitchen, Tobacco, Sixpence or Bottle. 
The missionaries were, of course, part of the oppressive colonial forces in Africa. In an effort to set up a successful mission in what is now Zimbabwe, Catholic Jesuits entered into an alliance with the British South Africa Company (BSAC). Ran by Cecil Rhodes (1853-1902), the collaboration between the Jesuits and the BSCA would have made any imperialist proud. BSAC needed labor for their gold mines but the native South Africans were not interested. They were self sufficient farmers and thus had no need for the salaries offered for work in the mines. The imperialists hit upon a brilliant idea, the "hut tax", a form of property tax imposed on Africans that must be paid in cash. [It is important to note that white farmers did not have to pay these taxes.] Thus to pay for the tax, the Africans were forced to work. If they failed to pay, they were imprisoned and then sent to work as prison laborers anyway! In return for donation of land and protection from Rhodes, the Jesuit took the role of collecting the hated taxes for the BSAC!
Today the number of missionaries from liberal churches are dwindling, their numbers being taken over by the fundamentalist, pentacostal and evangelical churches. However much like their ecclesiastical forefathers of the previous centuries, these missionaries do not believe the Africans, now largely Christians, are smart enough to keep the faith and churches going. Thus the rallying cries of the new missionaries involve "making Africa born again" or "fighting the forces of secularism" or "battling AIDS". Yet is it obvious that it is not the social or physical well being of Africans that concerns these modern day missionaries.
Armed with US$250,000 from the Southern Baptish Convention, Dr. John Goodgame, an American missionary in Uganda, launched a most unusual campaign against AIDS. Rather than using the money to provide healthcare or medicine, the money was used to purchase and distribute 100,000 Bibles with sheets pasted onto them giving selected Biblical passages to read. Some of these passages are predictable exhortations against adultery and other such "carnal" pleasures. 
Yet, just as 150 years of Christian missionary activities failed to prevent poverty, under-development, famine, apartheid and civil wars in Africa, it is unlikely that these new evangelical missionaries will be a force for any good there.
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Our first story concerns the Mois, a native tribe of Vietnam of Malayo-Polynesian stock related to many of the native peoples of Southeast Asia such as the Dayaks of Borneo islands and the Aetas of the Philippines. From an initial estimate of one million populating the mountainous regions of South Vietnam, their numbers began to dwindle in the 1950's. This was partly due to these people being forced into hard labour by the French colonialists and partly due to the activities of the missionaries.
As an example of how missionary activities could lead to a dwindling native population is that of the Bihs, a subtribe of the Mois. In the 1940's one of the eleven evangelists who came with the returned French troops after the defeat of the Japanese, went to Boun Choah, the main village of the Bihs. Other missionaries had unsuccessfully tried to covert the Bihs before. One Catholic missionary managed a total of only ten conversions in five years. However the new missionary, a Mr. Jones, was not to be detered. Upon studying the Bihs, he found that one of the principle acts of their beliefs was the custom of burial. Their dead was not buried at first, but left in open coffins on trees. After a couple of years, the bones were thoroughly cleaned, and after some ceremonial offerings, they were finally buried.
Mr. Jones used his political influence to force the French acting resident to suppress this custom. When the police arrived to protect him , Mr. Jones went personally to the trees, pulled down all the coffins on the trees and threw the contents, be they bones or decomposing corpses, into a common grave. The Bihs were then converted. Convinced that their ancestors have deserted them due to the desecration of their burial customs, the Bihs stopped producing offsprings. One local Bih explained that his people had resigned themselves to extinction. 
Next on our list is Thailand. The success of the Christian mission there has been abysmal. 170 years after the arrival of the first Protestant missionaries , there are today no more than 300,000 Christians there in a population of 55 million. Buddhism here (as in Japan) have proven to be a bulwark against Christianity. The missionaries have thus turned to the hill tribes who are neither Buddhist nor ethnic Thai. One such tribe is the Akha.
There are nearly 70,000 Akha tribes people in Thailand, with many more in the neighboring countries of Myanma, Loas, Vietnam and China. The Akhas are the poorest of the nine hill tribes of Thailand. They live in conditions of poverty and are generally ignorant of the outside world. Some Akhas had taken to growing opium while some women have turned to prostitution. That the Akhas need help is not doubted, that they need missionaries is highly unlikely.
Matthew McDaniel of the Akha Heritage Foundation had chronicled the abuse missionaries had inflicted in the Akhas and their culture. Given below is a summary of his findings. 
Many of these Christian missionaries to the Akhas come from the US with some coming from other Asian countries. The missions have been at work with the Akha for more than eighty years. Obviously their objective is not to alleviate the social conditions of the Akha but rather to use the Akhas' poverty and lack of political clout as a wedge to force Christianity upon them. The methods are brutal. Honing in on the "weakest point" in a village, such as a family with problems with the elders, the missionaries would increase their converts. Upon reaching a "critical mass" of converts, the missionaries would claim the village as "Christian" and forbid all practice of the Akha religion. The net effect is clear, even Akhas who have not converted can no longer practice what has been an important part of their culture. Some churches have gone even further. They forbid the Akhas to practice any aspect of their culture. This includes songs, dances and traditional ceremonies associated with the harvest. In doing this the missionaries are depriving the Akhas of a basic right of indigenous people as defined by the United Nations. 
The missionaries have little respect for the Akhas, their cultures and even their well being. One Baptist Mission, run by an American Chinese lady, resorted to broadcasting it's religious message over the public announcement system (loudspeakers) to the entire village, no consideration was given to whether the villagers like it or not! [To get an idea of how unpalatable this would be to the Akhas, imagine being bombarded by Osama bin Laden's preaching over the loudspeaker condemning the "crusaders" and proclaiming Allah's will]. This mission, well funded, had added another building on its location as well as two satellite dishes on its roof. Yet they are unwilling to provide economic help to the Akhas. Unable to provide for his children, one Akha man drank herbicide and committed suicide. He lived no more than 20 meters away from the mission compound. When asked why they didn't help in cases of such desperation, the mission replied simply that they "cannot help everybody, we are here to teach the Bible."
Like many cases throughout history, Christianity looks set to play a prominent role in the cultural extinction of the Akhas.
Papua New Guinea is an island situated at the edge of the Southeast Asian archipelago, just north of Australia. It has a modest population of 3.3 million. With 2,300 missionaries, or roughly 1 missionary for every 1430 Papua New Guineans, the country has the highest proportion of missionaries in the world. Has this proliferation of Christian proselytization lead to any spiritual revival? No, only more cultural genocide.
One example of the missionary attitude is that of Reverend Paul Freyburg, an American Lutheran, who said "I rejoice in the memories of what I have done and pray that it will continue. I don't believe that our mission destroyed much of any value." Rev. Freyburg came to New Guinea in the 1930's and, except for a brief interval during world war II, have remained there ever since. What did Rev. Freyburg destroy in his long missionary carreer? He held "renunciation festivals" at which he was called in to destroy "things of darkness". This of course includes, "magical objects" and also what he ignorantly described as "vegetable items". The former are irreplaceble works of arts and crafts by the natives. The latter are priceless herbal remedies and are important heritage of folk medicine. The natives were forbidden to perform any cultural dances and to observe their native festivals. 
Fundamentalists missionaries are today at the forefront of such activities. One such mission, the Pioneers, works among the Ningram people. Sal Lo Foso, a missionary there, has no qualms about his activities. These include destroying the "haus tamburan", a "spirit house" which is the normal focal point of village life for the Ningram, and building in its place, a church. All forms of traditional songs and dancing were forbidden. Such destruction of the Ningram culture has no meaning to Lo Foso, for he believed that for the Ningrams to be "born again", they must make a clean break with their past.
The missionaries lack of understanding and unwillingness to try and understand native cultures have left much suffering in their trail. Australian administrators reported a case in which missionaries refused to baptised men because they were polygamous. The men started divorcing their "excess" wives, leaving the women and their children without much visible support in their society. Another man, with three wives, on being told that he can only have one, simply killed two of them, so that he could then-being a monogamous Christian-"go to heaven"!
This rush by the natives to get converted has little to do with the Christian message but everything to do with the "cargo" they carry.
Papua New Guinea is now 94% Christian. Yet missionaries still arrive in droves. Why? For the simple reason that they are now importing their denominational bickering into the country. Thus an Anglican missionary reported finding leaflets circulated among his congregation by missionaries from the Seventh-Day Adventist church telling them that worshipping of Sunday is a sure fire step to Hell! In a similar manner, the New Tribes Mission (or NTM-for more info on this group see the section on South America below), tells the confused Papua New Guinean that the papacy is the antichrist. In fact some fundamentalists have taken to distributing the tracts by Christian publisher Jack T Chick, with cartoons showing, among other things, Catholic monks going through a secret passage way for an orgy with nuns!
Pettifer and Bradley summarised the situation in Papua New Guinea thus:
In India too, the success of Christian missions have been limited to the marginal groups: the untouchables, the hill tribes and the "Anglo-Indians" (Indians with mixed parentage). Some missions in India had tended to concentrate on proselytizing through the provision of social services to the poor and needy. While this is certainly a better method than the ethnocidal methods of the fundamentalists, it should not be forgotten that these social services in general play a subserviant role to theology. The mission once headed by Mother Teresa (1910-1997) is a case in point.
Born in Albania in 1910, Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu, became a nun and a missionary to India. She subsequently changed her name to Teresa. Her work among the poor in Calcutta attracted the world wide attention culminating with a Nobel Peace Price in 1979.  Yet her work has been criticised as not one based on the alleviation of suffering but on the morbid theological celebration of pain and suffering. Christopher Hitchens outlined these rather disturbing facts in his book The Missionary Position: Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice (1995):
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The major damage done in modern times are by fundamentalists evangelical groups. The two main sects that have major activities in South America are the Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL) and the New Tribes Mission (NTM).
The very name, Summer Institute of Linguistics, suggests an attempt at deception, of concealing their missionary activities. To the South American governments, the SIL presents itself as lingusitic investigators of the many languages of the native tribes of the continent. Under this cover, its 3,500 missionaries conduct their goal of converting the natives. It's founder William Townsend defends this patently dishonest method by asking the rhetorical question: "Was it honest for the Son of God to come down to earth without revealing who he was?" 
Founded by Paul Fleming, the NTM today boasts of 2,500 missionaries in 24 countries worldwide. More conservative and ardently fundamentalist than the SIL, the NTM has a pronounced policy of recruiting young evangelists of limited education. Their lack of sensitivity for these native tribes can be seen in some of their descriptions of them. The natives are referred to as "naked savages" by Jean Johnson, the widow of a young NTM missionary, in her book God Planted Five Seeds . In one instance, Les Pederson, the NTM Field Co-ordinator for Latin America was reported to have said "those Indians all look pretty much the same". 
How do these sects, and others, spread the word of God? Do they learn the language and then preach? Do the natives then, by virtue of hearing the "Truth" with a capital "T", automatically become Christians? No. The methods employed are devious.
One method, as explained by Victor Halterman, of the SIL, involves cutting off the natives from their source of livelihood. This involve a few distinct steps; in the words of Halterman himself:
As the author and journalist, Norman Lewis, explained in his book The Missionaries: God against the Indians (1988), the gifts are placed in such a way that at the end the Indians become far removed from their sources of food and game. It is then that the gifts are stopped. Halterman continues:
That work at the "local farm" oftentimes amounts to slavery was (indirectly)admitted by Halterman when he mentioned that "abuses" sometimes occur. 
Another method, aptly called "manhunt" by Lewis, involves the missionaries going out, sometimes in motorized vehicles, hunting for natives to integrate them into reservtions set up for missionary work. The NTM, for instance, went on such a manhunt in Paraguay. Five missionized natives were killed in one such manhunt. Those unconverted natives were taken to the NTM camp in Campo Loro. Within a short while, according to Survival International, all had died of new diseases they had no immunity to. Stung by criticism, the best reply the NTM 's Director in Paraguay could muster was: "We don't go after people anymore. We just provide transport." 
A final element needs to be added. As Lewis wrote:
These elements make for a militant fundamentalist missionary campaign. One that we would expect to cause harm to the natives. And we would be right. Below are some examples of the evil committed in the name of Christian evangelism.
The contact work, done in conjunction with the "manhunt" are sometimes done by Christianized natives who are trained by the missionaries to carry guns. The "newly contacted" natives are then rounded off to the mission camp. One American organization, Cultural Survival, reported in 1986 that natives in the NTM camp in Paraguay were held there against will. In short, they had been kidnapped.
In another such "manhunt" in 1979, also in Paraguay, one of the freightened natives fell down from a tree and broke her leg. (Her right breast had already been shot off by a previous encounter with the missionaries.) She was compelled, with her broken leg, to walk back to the mission camp. She subsequently died. 
If the process of rounding up the natives to be converted were bad, their lives within the mission camp were even worse. Some examples.
Once in the mission camp, many of the natives either die from starvation or from diseases transmitted by the missionaries with which the former had no immunity against. In one such mission camp in Paraguay, the German anthropologist, Dr. Mark Munzel, reported that food and medicine were deliberately withheld by the missionaries. From a total of 277 natives in April 1972 only 202 survivors were left three months later. A US congressional report confirmed that 49% of the camp population had vanished! 
Surely the (uninformed) believer may assert: these natives would be allowed to leave if they do not accept the preachings of the missionaries. Surely that would be the Christian thing to do. But that is not the case. Take the following eye witness account by Norman Lewis in a missionary camp in Paraguay:
Of course Paraguay is not the only place where the defenceless natives were subjected to Christian genocide. In Bolivia, William Pencille, of the South American Missionary Society, was called in to help when white ranchers moving into the tribal areas came upon the Ayoreos. Pencille persuaded these natives to stop resisting the encroachment of the cattlemen and to settle on a patch of barren land beside a railroad tract. The natives, having no resistance to common diseases of the "modern" man, began to die. Throughout all this Pencille had the means to save the lives of these people. He had access to many modes of transport, including an aeroplane, and to funds which could easily have been used to buy medicines for them. Yet this is what he said: "It's better they should die. Then I baptize them (on the point of death) and they go straight to heaven." [Extract from a conversation between William Pencille and Father Elmar Klinger, OFM , quoted by Luis A. Pereira in The Bolivian Instance] A total of three hundred natives died in his "care" within a matter of weeks. [a]
In Guatemala, the leadership of the Summer Institute of Linguistics had a close relationship with the former military dictator Efrain Rios-Montt, a fellow evangelical Christian and an ordained minister of the Gospel Outreach/Verbo Evangelical Church. Rios-Montt has been implicated in the genocide of the indigenous Mayans and political opponents in Guatemala during his rule in the early 1980's-with more than 70,000 people reportedly murdered by his army. His scorched earth policy (or in his own words "scorched communist policy") against guerilla insurgents was implemented indescriminately. More than 400 Mayan villages were burned to the ground-their properties, crops and lifestock, destroyed. Mayans suspected of supporting the insurgents were tortured and murdered, their women and girls raped. In the midst of all these atrocities, Rios-Montt was regularly giving broadcast sermons on morality! Of course, the fact that Rios-Montt was a Christian was more important to our missionary friends that the fact that he was a mass murderer. The relationship between the general and SIL was so cosy that he once had his henchmen serve as escorts for the SIL. 
But the worst of the mission linked atrocities happenned in Brazil. Granted that the main culprits of the genocide were functionaries of the grossly misnamed Indian Protection Service, the missionaries were at least partly responsible for these. In the 1980's the Brazilian attorney general's office began an investigation into the atrocities committed by the agency over a period of thirty years. It's findings were shocking.
Many native tribes were hunted, murdered and some to the point of extinction. Some of these include:
These peoples were culled by various means by greedy landrobbers who wanted to developed the untapped natural wealth of the Brazilian rainforest. Some of the methods include:
What have all these got to do with the missionaries? The Brazilian newpaper, O Jornal do Brazil had this to say:
This was confirmed by the Brazilian ministry of Indians. Thus, in essence, the missionaries allowed the atrocities to happen. As Lewis remarked:
As the newspaper O Globo reported: "it was missionary policy to ignore what was going on."
Of course the missionaries were not only passively supporting the genocide of the Brazilian natives. They played active roles in many of the atrocities. One missionary persuaded 600 Ticuna indians that the end of the world is taking place and they will only be safe on a ranch. On that ranch the Indians were made slaves and tortured.
The Bororos, a tribe studied by the reknowned anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss, fell prey to the missionaries as well. They were banned by the missionaries, who were aided by the local police, from performing their customary burial rites on their dead. That left the Bororos without a cultural identity and, one by one, they committed suicide. As the O Jornal do Brazil explained:
Thus was the power of Christian love in the Brazilian jungles. 
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