Steve Campbell and his family as seen on the Greene Baptist Church website. (greenebaptist.org)

A Christian missionary linked to a church in Greene has been accused of entering the territory of an isolated tribe in western Brazil and possibly exposing the natives to foreign germs.

A Brazilian government agency said Steve Campbell could face charges as serious as genocide for allegedly entering the camping grounds of the Hi-Meriman ethnic group near Labrea in southern Amazonas. The grounds had recently been abandoned, according to Brazilian news reports. Nonetheless, Brazilian officials said Campbell’s presence in the area last month could have exposed the group to a variety of health problems.

“It’s a case of rights violation and exposure to risk of death to isolated indigenous population,” according to a written statement from Brazil’s Indigenous Affairs Department. “Even if direct contact has not occurred, the probability of transmission of diseases to the isolated is high.”

According to Brazilian newspaper Folha de São Paulo, Campbell told investigators he had made the expedition at the invitation of the Jamamadis Indians, so that he could teach them to use GPS. Campbell reportedly said he only passed through the territory of the Hi-Merimã because it was the only way to reach his destination.

The Hi-Merimã, according to Wikipedia, number 1,000 and largely exist without contact from outside society.

Campbell, who has lived among the Jamamadis Indians in that region since 1963, is one of several missionaries who receive support from the Greene Baptist Church. The church also supports nearly a dozen other missionaries working in areas that include Kenya, Poland and Ireland. Those missionaries are not employed by the church.

On the church website, Campbell is listed along with his wife and two daughters as missionaries working with the Jamamadi Indians in the Brazilian state of Amazonas.

“Their work is to help with medical, mechanical and countless other ministry opportunities with the indians (sic) and missionary families,” according to the website.

Several news agencies around the globe were referring to Campbell as a “Maine missionary,” although it was not clear whether Campbell has ever lived in this state. Folha de São Paulo reported that Campbell has lived in Amazonas since he was brought there as a child in 1963 by his parents, also missionaries.

Details of his mission funding were not known. Messages left with the Greene church and its pastor Friday were not returned. Campbell could not be reached for comment.

In addition to its support for missions around the globe, the Greene Baptist Church supports local organizations, including Lewiston’s Hope Haven Gospel Mission. The church also runs a food pantry said to serve nearly 100 families per month.

“At the Greene Baptist Church, we believe that God has called us to support the spread of his word internationally, nationally, in our state and in our community,” according to a statement on the church’s website.


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