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Followers of Afro-Brazilian religions feel under attack

Reports of hate crimes rise, and Candomblé and Umbanda practitioners say they’re often the targets

 

September 13, 2014 5:00AM ET

by Zoe Sullivan & Lydia Barros

 

al jhazeeraRECIFE, Brazil — Drizzle fell steadily as a crowd of a few hundred practitioners of Candomblé — a syncretic Afro-Brazilian religion often compared to Santería or Haitian Voodoo — gathered under enormous white tents in front of the Basílica de Nossa Senhora do Carmo in one of Brazil’s oldest cities in late June.

“Prejudice is the deformed child of ignorance,” Pedro Henrique, a member of the Order of Lawyers, declared to the crowd, his measured words booming through the speakers. He was among roughly a dozen speakers present to defend Afro-Brazilian religious practices.

While Candomblé (pejoratively referred to in Portuguese as Macumba) and its indigenous parallel, Umbanda, have long been persecuted by Catholic and lay authorities, practitioners say the phenomenal growth of the evangelical movement in Brazil seems to have increased prejudice against them.

The number of evangelical Christians in Brazil grew 61 percent from 2000 to 2010, according to the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics. While Brazil still has the largest population of Catholics in the world — 123 million — Catholics saw their percentage decrease from 74 percent to 65 percent of the population in the same period. The evangelical population now accounts for roughly a quarter of the population, including presidential hopeful Marina Silva.

In the wake of Brazil’s changing religious demographics, intimidation of and violence toward Candomblé and Umbanda worshippers have increased.

One of the central figures in the conflict between evangelicals and Afro-Brazilian worshippers is Edir Macedo, the controversial founder of the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God, the largest neo-Pentecostal congregation in Brazil. This church has 8 million followers in more than 200 countries across the Americas, Europe, Africa and Asia. Forbes called Macedo “one of the world’s richest religious leaders and a prominent media baron.” He heads the Rede Record television network and a communication group that includes newspapers, radios and TV stations.

Macedo has sent preachers to the poor outskirts of Brazil’s major cities to gain followers and combat Afro-Brazilian religions, which he describes as “diabolical.”

In Bahia, Macedo’s church was ordered to pay roughly 1.3 million reals ($555,000) to Mother Gilda, a local Afro-Brazilian religious leader, for moral damages. In 1999 the church’s paper published a photo of her on its front page with the caption “Charlatan Macumbeiros damage the wallets and the lives of their clients.”

While evangelical politicians have been steering Brazil’s policies away from legalizing abortion or increasing protections for LGBT people, positions such as Macedo’s are also affecting the lives of Candomblé worshippers by fomenting intolerance.

In 2011 the state of Rio de Janeiro created a special agency to deal with the growing number of hate crimes. According to the secretary of human rights, the number of calls made to a federal religious intolerance hotline jumped from 109 in 2012 to 231 in 2013. It began recording such incidents in 2011.

While it’s unclear how many of those victims were practioners of Afro-Brazilian religions, Marta Almeida Filha, an activist for Afro-Brazilian rights, said attacks against Candomblé are often perpetrated by “fundamentalist evangelicals.”

Earlier this year a terreiro — a meeting space dedicated to a particular orixá (or saint) — was burned near the city of Goiana. In May a judge in Rio de Janeiro ruled that Candomblé and Umbanda were not religions. He was forced to retract that decision when it caused an uproar, but the sentence revealed that hostility to Afro-Brazilian religions permeates all levels of society.

‘I can’t allow the devil to take possession of me or of anyone near me.’

Maria Josete da Silva

neo-Pentecostal evangelical Christian

Candomblé was developed by African slaves in Brazil during the earliest days of the slave trade to resist Catholic Portuguese colonists’ proselytization. To avoid persecution, slaves adopted Catholic saints as stand-ins for their own gods and goddesses. For example the basilica’s eponymous Nossa Senhora do Carmo, Our Lady of  Carmel, represents the Candomblé goddess Oxum, goddess of love, wealth and fertility.

Drums call the gods, according to worshippers, and music and dance allow the faithful to enter into meditative trances. Sometimes a particular god or goddess (worshippers focus their faith on one member of the pantheon) will enter a person’s body. This possession is why many Christians, particularly evangelicals, reject the religion as devil worship.

 

Tradução:

 

Seguidores de religiões afro-brasileiras se sentir sob ataque

Os relatos de crimes de ódio aumentam, e os praticantes do candomblé e da umbanda dizem que são muitas vezes alvo

13 set 2014 05:00 ET

por Zoe Sullivan & Lydia Barros

RECIFE, Brasil – Regue caiu progressivamente à medida que uma multidão de algumas centenas de praticantes do candomblé – uma religião afro-brasileira sincrética muitas vezes comparado a Santeria ou Voodoo haitiano – reunidos sob enormes tendas brancas em frente à Basílica de Nossa Senhora do Carmo, em um dos cidades mais antigas do Brasil no final de junho.

“O preconceito é a criança deformada da ignorância”, Pedro Henrique, um membro da Ordem dos Advogados , declarou à multidão, suas palavras medidos crescendo através dos alto-falantes. Ele estava entre cerca de uma dezena de oradores presentes para defender práticas religiosas afro-brasileiras.

Enquanto Candomblé (pejorativamente referida no Português como Macumba) e seu paralelo indígena, Umbanda, têm sido perseguidos pelos católicos e leigos autoridades, os profissionais dizem que o crescimento fenomenal do movimento evangélico no Brasil parece ter aumentado o preconceito contra eles.

O número de cristãos evangélicos no Brasil cresceram 61 por cento de 2000 a 2010, de acordo com o Instituto Brasileiro de Geografia e Estatística. Enquanto o Brasil ainda tem a maior população de católicos do mundo – 123 milhões – os católicos viram a sua redução percentual de 74 por cento a 65 por cento da população no mesmo período. A população evangélica já responde por cerca de um quarto da população, incluindo a presidenciável Marina Silva .

Na esteira do Brasil de  mudar a demografia religiosa , a intimidação ea violência para com Candomblé e da Umbanda adoradores têm aumentado .

Uma das figuras centrais no conflito  entre evangélicos e adoradores afro-brasileiras é Edir Macedo, fundador polêmico da Igreja Universal do Reino de Deus, a maior congregação neo-pentecostal no Brasil. Esta igreja tem 8 milhões de seguidores em mais de 200 países em todo o Americas, Europa, África e Ásia.  Forbes  chamado Macedo “, um dos mais ricos líderes religiosos de todo o mundo e um barão da mídia de destaque.” Ele dirige a rede de televisão Rede Record e um grupo de comunicação que inclui jornais, rádios e emissoras de TV.

Macedo já  enviou pregadores para as periferias das grandes cidades do Brasil  para ganhar seguidores e combater religiões afro-brasileiras, que ele descreve como “diabólico”.

Na Bahia, a igreja de Macedo foi condenado a pagar cerca de 1,3 milhões de reais (555 mil dólares) para a Mãe Gilda, um líder religioso afro-brasileiro local, por danos morais. Em 1999, o papel da igreja publicou uma foto dela em sua primeira página com a legenda “Charlatão Macumbeiros danificar as carteiras e as vidas de seus clientes.”

Enquanto os políticos evangélicos têm sido orientação das políticas do Brasil longe de legalizar o aborto ou aumentar