(RNS) When the first COVID-19 cases hit Brazil in March, the government agency in charge of protecting the country’s Indigenous peoples, the National Indigenous Foundation, ordered all civilians to leave the Indigenous reservations. Only essential workers, such as health care personnel and those involved in food distribution, could remain.
But a new law signed by President Jair Bolsonaro on July 7 has made an exception for one group: Christian missionaries. A simple form from a doctor vouching for a faith worker’s health is enough to allow the person to stay as an essential worker.
According to Eliesio Marubo, a lawyer for the Indigenous Peoples Association of the River Javari Valley, known as UNIVAJA, some missionaries had never heeded the order to leave. “A few villages reported that there were evangelical missionaries in their areas who refused to go away,” Marubo told Religion News Service.