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Bringing together anthropology and missiology

May 15, 2006

By pwrdf

Brazil: Bulletin Story December 2005

HOW DO THE churches accompany indigenous peoples? In Brazil, the Methodist, Lutheran, United, Presbyterian and Anglican churches have sought to answer this question through the Protestant Missionary Working Group (GTME).
Since 1979, GTME has accompanied indigenous communities in their struggles, supported those in the Brazilian Protestant churches who are involved in â┚¬Ã…”indigenous pastoratesâ┚¬?, and interpreted all of this to the broader membership of the churches both in Brazil and abroad.
In the thatched longhouse perched above a magnificent waterfall on the Formoso River, conversation in a tiny indigenous community turns to the dreams the Parecis people have for lifting themselves out of poverty and marginalization. They talk of developing the area into an eco-tourism destination run by the five villages of the Indigenous Territory of Rio Formoso. But in order to do that, they need to control the headwaters of the rivers that run through their territory; headwaters that lie in the enormous neighbouring fazenda (cattle ranch) and that are contaminated with cattle and other
waste. 
The Parecis talk about a peaceful occupation of the headwaters claimed as part of their traditional  territory while GTME staff listen quietly. It is their job to be a bridge between the Parecis and the  churches, to better articulate the mission of the churches in and with indigenous communities.
In the words of one staff person, they seek to bring together â┚¬Ã…”anthropology and missiologyâ┚¬?. PWRDF seeks to support this small but important ecumenical initiative in a country where self-determination and self-government of indigenous peoples, like the Parecisâ┚¬Ã¢”ž¢ aspirations, are still very much only a dream. 

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