Missionaries in Brazil Are Turning Tribes Against COVID-19 Vaccines, Indigenous Leaders Warn
- Brazilian medical officials trying to distribute a coronavirus vaccine in the São Francisco reservation were repelled by some indigenous villages with bows and arrows.
- A leader representing indigenous communities in the region said only villages with evangelical missionaries and pastors are turning away healthcare workers.
- The issue is particularly concerning because Brazil’s 800,0000 indigenous people engage in communal living and lack access to many healthcare services, making them particularly vulnerable to COVID-19.
- President Jair Bolsanaro has received some blame for supporting evangelicals; however, the government’s indigenous health agency said it is working to raise immunization awareness in native communities.
Missionaries Spreading Disinformation
When Brazilian healthcare officials went to give coronavirus vaccines to Jamamadi villagers on the São Francisco reservation in Amazonas last month, they weren’t expecting to be met with bows and arrows.
Since then, workers continued to be met with aggressive welcomes and noticed a common thread, according to Claudemir da Silva, an Apurinã leader representing indigenous Purus river communities.
“It’s not happening in all villages, just in those that have missionaries or evangelical chapels where pastors are convincing the people not to receive the vaccine, that they will turn into an alligator and other crazy ideas,” he told Reuters by phone.
The news that sizeable portions of Brazil’s 800,000 indigenous people are shunning coronavirus vaccines has left many fearful of what the virus will do to the population. The groups are already considered vulnerable due to their emphasis on communal living, as well as their distinct lack of healthcare services in their remote areas of the Amazon rain forest.
Not All Evangelical Groups Are Responsible
The move by evangelical groups to dissuade people from getting the vaccine has been widely condemned. The Association of Brazilian Anthropologists denounced religious groups who “sabotage” vaccination efforts in a statement on Tuesday. Yet, the misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines isn’t coming from evangelicals as a whole, as many large evangelical congregations are urging their followers to get vaccinated.
Pastor Mario Jorge Conceição of the Assembly of God Traditional Church–which is located in Manaus, the capital of the region where the Jamamadi are located– said, “Unfortunately, some pastors who lack wisdom are spreading misinformation to our indigenous brethren.”
Brazil’s President Jair Bolosnaro has faced some blame over this, with critics pointing to his support of certain groups that have expressed skepticism over the vaccine. However, Sesai, the government’s indigenous health agency, clearly stated this week that its priority is combatting misinformation about coronavirus vaccines within indigenous communities.
Brazil has been particularly affected by the pandemic, with nearly 10 million cases and over 230,000 deaths. Those numbers put it nearly on-par with the United States, per capita.
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95-Year-Old Woman Dies After Police Tases Her in Nursing Home
The officer involved was suspended with pay and charged with assault.
A 95-year-old Australian woman whom police tasered in a nursing home last week has reportedly died from her injuries.
Clare Nowland, who had dementia and required a walking frame to stand up and move, was living at the Yallambee Lodge in Cooma in southeastern Australia.
At about 4:15 a.m. on May 17, police and paramedics responded to a report of a woman standing outside her room with a steak knife.
They encountered Nowland, then reportedly tried to negotiate with her for several minutes, but she didn’t drop the knife.
The five-foot-two, 95-pound woman walked toward the two officers “at a slow pace,” police said at a news conference, so one of them tasered her.
She fell to the floor and reportedly suffered a fractured skull and a severe brain bleed, causing her to be hospitalized in critical condition.
Nowland passed away in a hospital surrounded by her family, the New South Wales police confirmed in a statement today.
After a week-long investigation, the police force also said that the senior constable involved would appear in court next week to face charges of recklessly causing grievous bodily harm, assault occasioning actual bodily harm, and common assault.
NSW police procedure states that tasers should not be used against elderly or disabled people absent exceptional circumstances.
Following the incident, community members, activists, and disability rights advocates expressed bewilderment and anger at what they called an unnecessary use of force, and some are now questioning why law enforcement took so long to prosecute the officer involved.
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U.K. Police Face Backlash After Arresting Anti-Monarchy Protesters
London Mayor Sadiq Khan said that some of the arrests “raise questions” and “investigations are ongoing.”
The Public Order Act
A controversial protest crackdown law in the U.K. is facing criticism after dozens of anti-monarchy protesters were arrested during the coronation ceremony in London over the weekend.
The law, dubbed the “Public Order Act” was passed roughly a week ahead of the coronation for King Charles III. It gives police more power to restrict protesters and limits the tactics protesters can use in public spaces. It was condemned by human rights groups upon its passing, and is facing a new round of heat after 52 people were arrested over coronation protests on Saturday.
In a statement, the Metropolitan Police said protesters were arrested for public order offenses, breach of the peace and conspiracy to cause a public nuisance. The group said it gave advance warning that its “tolerance for any disruption, whether through protest or otherwise, will be low and that we would deal robustly with anyone intent on undermining the celebration.”
It is currently unclear how many of those arrested were detained specifically for violating the Public Order Act, however, some of those arrested believe the new law was used against them.
“Make no mistake. There is no longer a right to peaceful protest in the UK,” Graham Smith, the CEO of anti-monarchy group Republic tweeted after getting arrested. “I have been told many times the monarch is there to defend our freedoms. Now our freedoms are under attack in his name.”
An Attempt to “Diminish” Protests
During a BBC Radio interview, Smith also said he believes the dozens of arrests were premeditated.
“There was nothing that we did do that could possibly justify even being detained and arrested and held,” Smith claimed.
“The whole thing was a deliberate attempt to disrupt and diminish our protest.”
Yasmine Ahmed, the U.K. Director of Human Rights Watch, also tweeted that the arrests were “disgraceful.”
“These are scenes you’d expect to see in Russia not the UK,” she wrote.
When asked about the controversy, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak told reporters officers should do “what they think is best” in an apparent show of support for the Metropolitan Police.
For his part, London Mayor Sadiq Khan said he is looking into the matter.
“Some of the arrests made by police as part of the Coronation event raise questions and whilst investigations are ongoing, I’ve sought urgent clarity from Met leaders on the action taken,” Khan tweeted.
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Foreign Nationals Make Mad Dash out of Sudan as Conflict Rages
The conflict’s death toll has surpassed 420, with nearly 4,000 people wounded.
As the 10-day-long power struggle between rival generals tore Sudan apart, foreign governments with citizens in the country scrambled to evacuate them over the weekend.
On Sunday, U.S. special forces landed in the capital Khartoum and carried out nearly 100 American diplomats along with their families and some foreign nationals on helicopters.
An estimated 16,000 Americans, however, remain in the country and U.S. officials said in a statement that a broader evacuation mission would be too dangerous.
Christopher Maier, the assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low-intensity warfare, said in a statement that the Pentagon may assist U.S. citizens find safe routes out of Sudan.
“[The Defense Department] is at present considering actions that may include use of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities to be able to observe routes and detect threats,” he said.
Germany and France also reportedly pulled around 700 people out of the country.
More countries followed with similar efforts, including the United Kingdom, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, Canada, China, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, and Indonesia.
Yesterday, a convoy carrying some 700 United Nations, NGO, and embassy staff drove to Port Sudan, a popular extraction point now that the airport in Khartoum has closed due to fighting.
Reports of gunmen prowling the capital streets and robbing people trying to escape, as well as looters breaking into abandoned homes and shops, have persuaded most residents to stay indoors.
Heavy gunfire, airstrikes, and artillery shelling have terrorized the city despite several proposed ceasefires.
Over the weekend, the reported death toll topped 420, with nearly 4,000 people injured, though both numbers are likely to be undercounted.