RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - A video made with the help of U.S. missionaries and depicting Amazon Indians burying children alive is “faked” and inciting racial hatred, a group campaigning for tribal rights said on Thursday.
The short video, “Hakani,” has been watched more than 350,000 times on the YouTube video-sharing website.
It depicts scenes of Indians in an isolated forest village digging graves and burying several live children in them. The “Hakani” campaign also has a website and a group on networking site Facebook with more than 13,000 members.
London-based Survival International said in a statement 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.”
“People are being taught to hate Indians, even wish them dead,” said Survival’s director, Stephen Corry.
The video was made by the son of the founder of an American missionary organization called Youth with a Mission, which has a branch in Brazil known as Jocum.
Youth with a Mission is an interdenominational Christian group based in Hawaii which focuses on involving young people in evangelism in 149 countries, its website says.
Enock Freire, one of the makers of the film, said Youth With a Mission helped in the production of the film, which he acknowledged was fictional and aimed at drawing attention to what he said was a serious problem.
“It (infanticide) is common,” he said from Hawaii. “This distortion that we are trying to incite hate is untrue.”
Infanticide is practiced by some tribes in the Amazon region, sometimes on disabled children, often based on the belief that children who take their last breath above land will come back to haunt a community. But Survival says it is rare and becoming rarer as healthcare access improves.
Brazil’s Indian affairs department has tried to bar the film, which it says was financed by Jocum, saying it denigrates the image of the more than 220 ethnicities that live in Brazil.
Neither the video, the “Hakani” campaign website nor the Facebook group include any mention of the missionary group or any contact details. Corry said the group was trying to play down its role in the film.
The website says the girl “Hakani” was rescued from her tribe, and that she was among what it says are hundreds of children targeted for death each year among Brazil’s tribes.
It says the video is a “powerful docudrama” and urges people to donate money and write letters in support of a proposed Brazilian law, known as Muwaji’s Law, which would abolish infanticide by indigenous groups.
“The only thing we are trying to do is save lives,” said Freire.
Survival says the law, by requiring Brazilians to report to authorities anything seen as a “harmful traditional” practice, would foster “witch hunts” against indigenous people.
“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.
“The infanticide is not being explained; it’s being taken out of context.”
Editing by Eric Walsh