Note from BW of Brazil: In a Western world that continues to place Christian religious values and morals at the cores of their societies, those who practice non-Christian belief systems continue to face ostracism, stereotypes and even violent repression. This has been the case of African-oriented religions such as Candomblé in Brazil for centuries and continues to be the case as one prominent religious leader proclaimed recently. As pointed out by the BBC: “Candomblé was condemned by the Catholic Church, and followers of the faith were persecuted violently right up through government-led public campaigns and police action. The persecution stopped when a law requiring police permission to hold public ceremonies was scrapped in the 1970s.” In a recent conference to discuss the advancement of policies to address widespread racial inequalities in the country, respect for religions of African origin was placed on the agenda by a well-known religious leader from the southeastern region of the country.
Brazilian state still sees communities of African origin religions as folklore
By Juliana Gonçalves
For Mãe Celina de Obá (Mother Celina Oba), delegate of the state of Espírito Santo, from the city of Cachoeiro Itapumirim, the Brazilian state has yet to change its view in relation to the terreiro (1) communities. “Unfortunately, we are seen as part of national folklore; we’re presented as a Brazilian product, but this does not translate into the conquest of rights.”
The Yalorixá participated in the delegation of peoples of terreiros during the III CONAPIR conference. “This is the third conference of the promotion of equality. In the past many proposals were made that were not consolidated,” she said.
Taking as a basis the IBGE data of 2010, peoples of the terreiros are undoubtedly a minority. The population of the state of Espírito Santo increased from 1.3% (in 2000) to 2% (in 2010). Followers of (African origin religions) Umbanda and Candomblé are 0.3%, the same percentage recorded in the previous survey.
People understand that the number of practitioners should be higher, since there are few who admit that they practice the religion publicly because they fear verbal reprisals, social sanctions, and even physical attacks from other members of society.
Celina recognizes that only the fact of the people of the terreiro being represented at the conference is a step forward, but states that the conditions did not improve immediately. “Our people crave nothing more than equal treatment and opportunity.”
According to her, during the opening of the III CONAPIR, the people of the terreiro received a positive response to the request for a meeting with the president. “I’m excited about the possibility of President Dilma sitting down with us for the first time. She has agreed to meet us and Seppir will mediate the meeting,” said Celina.
1. Terreiro is a temple where Afro-Brazilian religions such as candomblé is practiced. Source