Human rights group Survival International has accused American evangelical missionaries of inciting racism and presenting false information with a controversial online video denouncing infanticide among Brazilian indigenous tribescalled “Hakani,” which has been viewed on YouTube over 350,000 times. The incident has put a spotlight on the fine line between digital activism and ethical responsibility.
The video depicts scenes, now deemed to be reenactments, of Indians in an Amazon village digging graves and burying several live children in them. It was directed by David Cunningham, the son of the founder of an American fundamentalist missionary organisation called ‘Youth with a Mission’, which has a branch in Brazil known as Jocum. The “Hakani” campaign also maintains a website and a Facebook groupwith more than 13,000 members. The campaign is urging people to donate money and write letters in support of the Muwaji’s Law, which is a proposed Brazilian law that would make infanticide by indigenous groups illegal. Survival said the film is “faked, that the earth covering the children’s faces is actually chocolate cake, and that the film’s claim that infanticide among Brazilian Indians is widespread is false.” While infanticide is common with some indigenous tribes with ill children, the practice has become more rare as medical access to rural communities has improved.
“I think the missionaries are stirring up hatred against the Indians, who they profess to be concerned about,” said Fiona Watson, a Brazil campaigner for Survival, in a Reuters interview. “The infanticide is not being explained, it’s being taken out of context. They have now suddenly become baby-killers.”