Fans of the classic “Star Trek” television series will be well aware of the Prime Directive, which prohibited Starfleet personnel from interfering in the alien cultures and societies they met. It was an immoral, unworkable rule, however, and Captain Kirk disobeyed it regularly, rarely losing sleep over his decision to do the right thing. Today anthropologists in South America seemingly have their own prime directive: no interfering in native cultures, even when those societies apparently practice infanticide. Christian missionaries, however, are playing the role of Captain Kirk.
Tonight “Nightline explores one such dispute. It involves Youth With A Mission workers who say “the Brazilian government is turning a blind eye to the killing of babies born with birth defects, many of which are treatable by Western medicine” and the Brazilian Department of Indian Affairs, which “is accusing the evangelicals of enslaving Indians and disguising their intent to evangelize.” The story is centered on “a girl named Hakani, a member of the Suruwaha Indian tribe, who has been adopted by evangelical missionaries Marcia and Edson Suzuki.”
Of course, missionaries have long stood not just for evangelism, but for defending the powerless from injustice. To cite just one example, William Carey, who has come to be known as the father of modern missions, led the fight against the ungodly practice of sati, or widow-burning, in India two centuries ago.
The program is scheduled for 10:35 Central Time on ABC.
Update: The program is scheduled for Wednesday night at 10:35 Central.