Prisoners of a White God ?
Bruce Wilson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Thu Jul 30, 2009 at 09:48:25 AM EST
When does Christian missionary work become predatory ? Czech anthropologist Tomas Ryska's 2008 film Prisoners of a White God concerns Ryska's troubling findings, from his field work among the Akha mountain people of Southeast Asia. The film, which avoids polemic, describes Christian missionary efforts that according to Ryska's account are destroying Akha culture. Among the accusations Tomas Ryska's low-key but morally engaged and quietly outraged testimony presents are charges that missionaries are using Akha children as plantation slaves, sexually molesting them, and even selling them as sex slaves.

[below: 2008 video documentary by Tomas Ryska, Prisoners of a White God]

Here is a description of the film:
This documentary explicitly reveals under cover work of missionary agencies and individuals in the destruction of an ethnic group, the Akha people of South East Asia. It is a picture of evil cloaked in righteousness. Evangelical missionaries come with the Good News of the Gospel, and aid for the poverty stricken mountain people. The reality is division, destruction of family core groups, human rights violations, displacement, forced relocation, theft of land, cultural genocide, racism and power of a majority people group over the indigenous group.

It is a picture of hell on earth despite the coming of so-called Good News, and it is enactment and creation of hell on earth for these tribal people. Kidnapped from their villages, children become “orphans” though they have families. They become the employees on the Christian Missionary tea plantations. “There are no employees,” says one man, “we have children.” In one place, 60 children take the role of laborer on the boarding school grounds. Worse, they are sold into slavery and sex trade by missionaries and those among the tribes who are on the take. One missionary states that it would be a terrible revelation if the outside world ever got news of child rape by Christian missionaries. Denial, pretense, and cover-up is necessary for these organizations to continue their work among the People.

Youth With a Mission, the global behemoth ministry that owns the increasingly notorious "C Street House" which lies at the center of three Republican sex scandals to have emerged during the summer of 2009, is globally one of the most active agents in the global missionary business. YWAM fields over 15,000 missionaries worldwide.

Published in Fall 2008, a USA Today story described Youth With a Mission's newly-launched Brazilian campaign that accuses Amazon indians of practicing widespread infanticide. David Cunningham, son of Youth With a Mission founder Lauren Cunningham, has produced a pseudo-documentary, Hakani, that graphically depicts the alleged practice, which according to USA Today is being show in churches in Brazil and the USA.

According to the USA Today report, YWAM has been active in a recently launched effort to pass Brazilian legislation that would allow governmental or NGO agencies to take children deemed to be "at risk" away from their parents. But Tomas Ryska's documentary Prisoners of a White God raises questions as to whether such a "solution" would in fact be worse for such children than the alleged problem. As USA Today's Dan Harris observes,

Brazilian government officials say the missionaries are exaggerating and exploiting the issue to justify their attempts to convert Indians to Christianity, destroying ancient civilizations in the process.

 Youth With a Mission has institutionally backed an ambitious program in which Christians attempt to achieve world domination by gaining control of key government sectors such as government, business, media, education, and finance.

Branded as the 'Seven Mountains Mandate', the 7-M Mandate is being popularized via a multilevel marketing campaign which has been promoted by pastors close to Sarah Palin. YWAM founder Loren Cunningham claims the 7-Mandate idea came to him as a vision from God.

Youth With a Mission has also led the way in the promotion of a new evangelizing technique emphasizing the need to drive out "territorial demons" that the ministry claims afflict much of global humanity.

YWAM's new evangelizing paradigm blames poverty, disease, crime and lack of economic development on the alleged influence of witches, sorcerers, and "territorial" demon spirits that YWAM leaders have claimed in their writing exert a malevolent influence afflicting geographic regions between the 10th and 40th parallel, where the majority of humanity lives and where Christian evangelizing efforts have historically been least successful.

In a Youth With a Mission pamphlet titled `Strongholds of the 10/40 Window', author  George Otis Jr. wrote, "spiritual strongholds are invisible structures of thought and authority that are erected through the combined agency of demonic influence and human will. In this sense they are not demons, but places from which demons operate"

YWAM Publishing currently sells a twelve tape audiotape series by Dean Sherman, Dean of the College of Christian Ministries at Youth With A Mission's University of the Nations. As YWAM describes the tape series,

"God has called Christians to overcome the world and drive back the forces of evil and darkness at work within it. Spiritual warfare isn't just casting out demons; it's Spirit-controlled thinking and attitudes. Dean delivers a no-nonsense, both-feet-planted-on-the-ground approach to the unseen world."

Given the North American experience with government-sponsored, Christian-run, Indian boarding schools, the answer would seem to be always. There may in fact be exceptions to missionary predation, such as Quaker assistance to Palestinians, but evangelizing as an integral aspect of missions by definition takes something essential from those targeted.

by Jay Taber on Thu Jul 30, 2009 at 11:43:12 AM EST
I've heard generally favorable reports about Catholic missions work - that such missions tend to be more concerned about meeting human needs than with evangelizing. That's a very broad brush though.

by Bruce Wilson on Thu Jul 30, 2009 at 06:19:51 PM EST

First, Native America is well aware of what missionaries are really about- and that they're BAD NEWS.  Stories such as this are not unusual- I've met people who were victims of "Indian Schools" run by churches- one man was regularly sexually abused- and that was in the '70's!  This is but a continuation of the treatment we've had for many generations! Some examples:

This isn't well known- quote: "Estimates indicate that, from the early to mid-1960s to 1976, between 3,400 and 70,000 Native women- out of only 100,000 to 150,000 women of childbearing age- were coercively, forcibly, or unwittingly sterilized permanently by tubal ligation or hysterectomy."  (Dr. Marie Ralstin-Lewis, 2005 Wicazo SA review, pgs 71-72).  I would suggest reading pgs 75 and 76 of that article.   This is nothing unusual in our experience, but it is horrible.  NOTE:  the 3,400 figure is what is acknowledged by the US government- but research indicates it is closer to 70,000- almost half of our women*!!!

It is well documented that Hitler sent people to study the US reservation system and used that to develop their system for the "final solution".

Most people don't know this- but while slavery has been outlawed since the civil war, at the same time Native Americans are documented as being sold as slaves into the early 20th century (in California- and I believe connected with the missions).  

Think about the reservation system- In some cases Native Americans were branded or tattooed when they were going to leave the reservation... and several years ago (early 90's) an elder at a powwow showed me one such marking (a number- on her arm).  The reservation system was only a little better than out and out slavery.  And it was VERY VERY common for children to be taken out of the arms of their parents and put up for adoption or in "orphanages" where their connections to their own people/families were systematically destroyed (and may I add that these were almost always CHRISTIAN orphanages!!!  I would also remind the reader of the person I met who experienced regular and systemic sexual abuse!  That, by the way, was common!)

It was against Federal Law for most of us to practice our culture/religion (except on the reservations- and there it was discouraged).  When the bill granting us freedom of religion was before Congress in 1979, the churches fought strenuously against it.  They didn't want us to have the freedom everyone else took for granted.   My tribe's practices were against the law- even our existence in the southeast (our homeland) was against the law (and the churches were VERY unhappy when we gained back our rights)!

The Klan claims to be Christian.  You know their history and how they are.

I remember from my dominionist cult days sermons about slavery being in the Bible and thus "an institution of God"!

I expect things like this to grow and get more and more abusive.  I just hope that the word DOES get out- to the mainstream press and to the public!  What you've described is what my people were put through for generations.  It's now spreading like a cancer- and the same cause (Evangelical flavors of "Christianity") is to blame.

* These figures obviously don't include all of the Native Americans who kept their identity hidden during that period- and there were a lot of us.  Remember, it was against the law for us to even EXIST, so the only way we could survive was by passing as white (or in some cases, as black).

by ArchaeoBob on Thu Jul 30, 2009 at 01:03:44 PM EST

The Transformations video series produced by George Otis vividly demonstrate the assault on local cultures. The videos are used as testimonials and teaching tools for spiritual mapping and spiritual warfare. After the spiritual warfare and the expulsion of witches and other demons, when the population has been converted to "Spirit filled" Christianity, these communities supposedly become utopias of happy people with reduced crime, and magical healing of both humans and the environment including miraculous healing of AIDS.  The facts on these locations prove otherwise, and the movies themselves are heartbreaking if you look beyond the propaganda and think of the consequences to these communities.  

One heartbreaking scene is in the Transformations movie on Fiji, "Let the Sea Resound," as an island population is praying and fasting in apology for the killing of a missionary many decades ago by their ancestors.  Then they burn their native artifacts, carved wood masks, etc. in a bonfire.  There are numerous references in these movies as well as books on spiritual warfare to the destruction of artifacts of various populations as part of the process of removing the demon spirits.  Additionally, the leadership of the New Apostolic Reformation travels around the world praying for the destruction of other religious sites and artifacts including Roman Catholic sites.  And, as I reported in my article Talk2Action article, Killing Mother Theresa With Their Prayers, some of their leadership happily reported that believed that one of their spiritual warfare missions in 1997 may have resulted in the death of Mother Theresa and Princess Di.

They report that they believe their spiritual warfare has also resulted in the naturally occurring destruction of other religious buildings and statues including the burning of transcendental meditation center in California featured in the first Transformations movie.

by Rachel Tabachnick on Thu Jul 30, 2009 at 01:22:44 PM EST

Kevin Annett's film Unrepentant CANADAS-GENOCIDE tells a similar story, only in Canada.

by Jay Taber on Thu Jul 30, 2009 at 02:46:19 PM EST
I'll watch it.

by Bruce Wilson on Thu Jul 30, 2009 at 06:22:11 PM EST

The "final solution" reference noted above was the subject of a film videoid=48191243 by Apache filmmaker Joanelle Romero, titled American Indian Holocaust.

by Jay Taber on Thu Jul 30, 2009 at 06:51:04 PM EST

Thanks for sharing it. I thought I would watch a few minutes, and ended up watching the whole thing. Very heartbreaking. I hope Mr. Ryska's work will help the Akha people.

He mentioned the Karen tribe as being more able to assimilate. They are the great silversmiths who make the Hill Tribes Silver jewelry components, but how much are they being also taken advantage of? I am now wondering about the practices of one wholesaler in particular...

by phatkhat on Fri Jul 31, 2009 at 03:15:47 AM EST

there are similar problems with the complex New Tribes Mission/Wyclif Bible Translators/Summer Institute of Linguistics in Latin America: making native communities dependent and clearing their land for oil companies and cattle ranchers, etc. ... I assume, that they are also active in Thailand but as far as I know, they are non-charasmatic/non-pentacostal and therefore not too close to YWAM & Co.

by Entdinglichung on Fri Jul 31, 2009 at 12:38:57 PM EST

"In Paraguay, the NTM acted in collusion with the dictator Stroessner, for who the policy of settlement camps and conversion fitted in nicely with his plans for opening up the forest to mining and logging interests.

The NTM are also accused of killing many more people, for example the Ayoreo, also of Paraguay, by bringing western diseases into the area. They are also not deterred even by government rulings; in 1998 the Brazilian Association of Anthropology exposed the fact that the NTM were trying to re-establish their reservation for the Zo'E indians, which was closed down by the Brazilian state seven years previously because it emerged that 40 people had died from respiritory diseases, and the NTM's policy of keeping people at the camp by distributing industrialised goods had increased dependancy on these products."

"In 1979 and 1986 'evangelised' Indians, with the backing of the NTM, went
into the forest to bring out uncontacted Ayoreo, from a group known as the
Totobiegosode - 'people from the place of the wild pig'. At least five of the
'evangelised' Ayoreo died during these expeditions, as the uncontacted Indians
tried to defend themselves from capture. Several of those brought to Campo Loro
died soon after through ill-health. Campaigns by Survival and others brought a
halt to these 'manhunts'."

by Entdinglichung on Fri Jul 31, 2009 at 12:49:14 PM EST

Tribalism is a largely misunderstood and maligned social and political entity. Until industrial societies stop attacking indigenous peoples, nothing fundamental can be accomplished by international institutions like the UN.

by Jay Taber on Fri Jul 31, 2009 at 01:31:54 PM EST

came to mind as I watched this intriguing video.  First, was it credible?  I believe it was since I believe this site to be.  But the video struck me as kind of similar to what I've seen in theatres, mockumentary.  I believe it is a credible story... and only my completely jaded/critical mentality causes me to question anything about it.  Second,  do these missionaries who are abusing children really believe they are working for a greater good... or are they just using the Christian faith as a means to an end... pedophilia?

My insecurities with news media aside... this is a powerful story that needs to be discussed.


by deatons on Sat Aug 01, 2009 at 11:06:46 PM EST

that if you take a second look at my response on this thread, you'd realize that things like this are rather common (and generally well known to indigenous peoples).  I wasn't in the least surprised at the news- what DID surprise me a bit was that it was getting out to the public.

Missionaries are destructive.  

Pentecostal/Dominionist/Fundamentalist missionaries are ALWAYS very bad news and harmful to the people they prey on.  This sort of thing is the usual outcome.

by ArchaeoBob on Sun Aug 02, 2009 at 11:13:54 AM EST

I watched this documentary and I think it is one of the best videos that have ever seen in this category. This kind of post is very much helpful to know about this topic. Keep updating more such interesting posts on this blog! maid service san jose   

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