Missionaries Doing What Missionaries Always Did

"Rabbit-Proof Fence"

When I heard that ten American missionaries are on trial for kidnapping 33 Haitian children and attempting to take them to an orphanage in the Dominican Republic, I, like most other people, was outraged. But I can’t say I was surprised.

To be sure, the thought that some people, whether missionaries or traffickers, would take advantage of an earthquake to steal children and place them in orphanages – or the sex trade, or the slave trade, or whatever – stirs the conscience. The Baptist missionaries, mostly from Idaho, would have us believe that they were trying to do some good, except that a number of the “orphans” had living parents. And so they were trying to do good deeds, as many of the other missionaries before them. We’ve been down this road before.

This would not be the first time that missionaries kidnapped Third World children in the name of God. A look back into history reveals the troubling role of religion and its practitioners in the colonization of black and brown countries. Now, I am not condemning those dedicated and committed people of faith who are helping poor communities throughout the world and saving lives. I am sure they are making a difference. But we would be deluding ourselves if we denied the sordid history of missionaries.

After all, missionaries served an important role in the conquest and taught them they were heathens and evil sinners who were bound for Hell. They convinced the so-called natives that their culture and customs were filthy and backward, and told them to abandon their ancestors and belief systems. The missionaries separated the conquered from their sense of self, a psychic conquest if you will, and replaced the old gods with a god who, not surprisingly, looked just like the conquerors. Now softened up, the natives were susceptible to alcohol abuse and other distractions, and ripe for physical conquest in the form of subjugation, enslavement, forced labor, genocide and the like.

Part of the cultural genocide was committed by white Christian missionaries in the name of Jesus Christ. Missionaries worked with the Australian government to rip thousands of half-Aboriginal children from their families and place them in government orphanages, where they were abused. The plan was to “breed” the Aborigine out of them and force them to conform to Western ways. The plight of these stolen children was dramatized in the film Rabbit-Proof Fence , in which three kidnapped Aboriginal girls who were to be trained as servants escaped from their captors, and roamed through the outback alone.

And as for the Native Americans, European missionaries tried to convert and “civilize” the so-called heathens from the first point of contact. When the U.S. divided the Native peoples’ lands into reservations, they assigned the reservations to Christian missionaries. Reservation schools, both boarding and day schools, served the goals of Manifest Destiny by “killing the Indian” in order to “save the man”. Subjected to a regime of forced assimilation, Native students were prohibited from speaking any language other than English. And they were kept from practicing their traditional spiritual beliefs, and were indoctrinated with Christian teachings. Separated from their language and their culture, sometimes they were separated from their families by hundreds of miles. Supposedly, it was for their own good.

david.jpgSo, the kidnapping, exploitation and abuse of darker children by missionaries are nothing new. Haitian children, victims of a devastating earthquake, are also victims of an ancient game that is as old as colonization itself. It is a cold-blooded crime, but for hundreds of years the criminals were immune from prosecution and never saw the inside of a courtroom.

David A. Love

This article first appeared in The Black Commentator and is republished with permission.


  1. Jackie says

    I wonder if any criminal traffickers were arrested? My concern is that the authorities neede to make a public arrest as there was so much concern about the risk to children and it wouldn’t surprise me if one of the long term tarfficking gangs set up the missionaries who were probably guilty of naivety more than anything else.Before the earthquaake trafficking of children was happening on a big scale-what were the haitian government doing about that?

    While I acknowledge that of course terrible things have been done in the name of God.

    If you look at the history of many nations you will see the incredibly postive influence and change for good that comes when a nation follows biblical principles-The uk in the 1700s,1800s -who set up sunday schools and then the ragged schools -providing education for all not just the wealthy,Salvation army-bought about the safety match because they made a stand about the children who were getting sick because of the chemicals being used in the factories.Hospitals etc -were started by Christians.
    Just as in the developing world today many of the schools and hospitals and provided by the local churches,run by local people not by white westerners

    Just want to redress the balanceof original article!

  2. Pam says

    Excellent article, Mr. Love. I take exception to your description of Rabbit-Proof Fence, however, which was based on the story of the author’s mother. The girls did not “roam the outback,” they walked back to their families. something on the order of 3000+ miles, and I believe they did this twice as they were captured twice. The missionaries thought they knew better than the girls’ love of family and home.

  3. kelly says

    “I, like most other people, was “outraged”.”

    Outraged???? Don’t you have other things in life to worry about or to direct so much emotion towards?????

    They were idiots who didn’t do things correctly. Just because they invoked the name of God or Jesus or whoever doesn’t make their crime any less “horrific” (my term) or “freaking stupid” (pretty much a term that most people attach to these misguided idiots).

    Hundreds of years of blah, blah, blah. This is now and the Idahoas stole some chillins’. Oopsie.. sucks to be them.

  4. says

    Christians doing what Christians have done for at least 1500 years. What a surprise. They do these things then wonder why so many are turned off to their brand of God.

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