A Christian missionary may be charged with "genocide" by Brazillian authorities after he illegally came in contact with a remote tribe.
Steve Campbell of Greene Baptist Church in Maine is being investigated by officials from FUNAI, the Brazilian government's Indigenous Affairs Department, after traveling deep into the southern Amazon jungle with the intention of sharing the Gospel with the ancient tribespeople.
The missionary allegedly entered an area occupied by the remote and protected Hi-Merimã tribe sometime last month while attempting to evangelize a neighboring tribe. The Hi-Merimã is one of a few dozen isolated communities in Brazil that have had almost no contact with the outside world and have limited immunity to outside diseases.
As a result, Campbell is accused of putting the ancient tribe in grave danger by making contact with them after being led to their area by his GPS. He reportedly entered the area by mistake while teaching Indians from the neighboring Jamamadi tribe to use the device.
"It's a case of rights violation and exposure to risk of death to isolated indigenous population," a Funai spokesman said in a written statement to Thomson Reuters Foundation.
"Even if direct contact has not occurred, the probability of transmission of diseases to the isolated is high."
Campbell could be charged with "genocide" as a result of his actions, UNAI's general coordinator, Bruno Pereira, said, as reported by the Fraser Coast Chronicle.
"If it is established in the investigation that there was an interest in making contact, using his relationship with other [tribespeople] to approach the isolated [Hi-Merimã tribe], he could be charged with the crime of genocide by deliberately exposing the safety and life of the Merimãs," said Pereira.
According to the Greene Baptist Church website, Campbell works as a missionary alongside his wife, Robin, and their two children.