Note from BW of Brazil: Sometimes it’s pretty amazing the things that happen in Brazil but people still wanna believe that “we are all equal“. I mean, let’s not even discuss racism for a moment and just consider the reports of lynchings, rapes (also here), the deranged phenomenon of men ejaculating on women on buses and subways (see here and here), the numerous violent prison riots, and the number of murders that are equal to countries at war and we must conclude that the country has some serious social issues. Add to this a recent string of violent attacks on Afro-Brazilian religious temples and one must really ask how anyone can seriously believe “we are all equal”.
In one attack in August, 65-year old Maria da Conceição Cerqueira da Silva suffered injuries to her face, mouth and arm when she was stoned in Nova Iguaçu, in suburban Rio. According to her family, she was a victim of religious intolerance. One of the principal culprits of this increasing violence against Afro-Brazilian religious followers is the Evangelical church, whose rhetoric and demonizing of these religions, lead followers who claim to represent Jesus, to violently oppress, threaten and attack followers of a religion they consider to be “of the devil”. Is this really what Jesus would do?
Drug traffickers and pastors united by prejudice?
by Pai Rodney
A series of attacks on umbanda and candomblé terreiros (Afro-Brazilian religious temples) in the metropolitan area of Rio de Janeiro establishes a wave of fear and uncertainty.
On Sunday (17), after one o’clock, the 10th Walk in Defense of Religious Freedom will take place in Copacabana. The babalaô (see note one) Ivanir dos Santos is at the forefront of the movement that this year occurs in a critical context in Brazil and especially in Rio de Janeiro, amid a series of reports of depredations in candomble and umbanda terreiros.
More than marching through a secular state and for respect for the Constitution and the rights of minorities and peoples of African origin, the moment demands that we be united by essential guarantees, such as security, justice and equality.
Believing that minorities should be subjugated and submitting to the will of the majority is presupposed by anti-democratic, Nazi, and despotic regimes. Respecting and living with diversity is the foundation of a Democratic State of Law, in which freedom of conscience and belief must be guaranteed.
It is not today that African-born peoples denounce acts of intolerance: pais and mães de santo (male and female religious leaders) expelled from communities, adherents forbidden to wear white clothes and insignias of the orixás (African deities), faithful attacked with stones etc.
The media had reported on other occasions, but the events of recent weeks were shocking due to the cruelty and for associating, as denounced to the State Department of Human Rights, the actions of traffickers and militias in Rio de Janeiro in terreiros to pastors and evangelical churches.
Some videos of depredations, in which criminals threaten frequenters and destroy sacred objects and places of worship with extreme violence, have become available on the internet. In these videos, the name of Jesus is evoked, with a tone of preaching mixed with typical insulting curse words of the criminal factions.
The climate is one of fear and uncertainty, since the inexpressive measures of the state do not account for curbing the series of attacks that seem to be orchestrated to intimidate and prevent terreiros from following their rituals.
On the basis of these facts, we need to think about violence perpetrated by the state or public power, albeit symbolic, as a mechanism that incites and justifies acts committed alone or by groups that take upon themselves the authority to judge the other according to their moral and or religious standards. Moreover, in this capitalist system, financial interests denote certain connivance of the State with acts that run counter to the common good and disrespect populations.
The federal government, in a recent decree, has liberated an area of the Amazon for deforestation and mining exploration, passing over international treaties and disregarding environmental and indigenous reserves.
The mayor of Rio de Janeiro, Marcelo Crivella, does not participate in any event that has the slightest relation to Afro-Brazilian culture, has considerably reduced the funding for samba schools and intends to submit the operation of religious temples to his personal sanction.
In São Paulo, homeless people are victims of numerous arbitrary and inhumane actions by the city. In Minas Gerais, the Judiciary has limited the practices of candomblé.
There may be no direct relationship between the actions of the State and the criminal acts that have been swarming against minorities, but the omission generates a climate of impunity and disrespect for the law.
When we see Indians murdered by garimpeiros (see note two), traffickers associated with false pastors or fundamentalist zealots destroy terreiros and persecute their followers, or even increase violence against homeless people, it becomes impossible not to think that state institutions are not fulfilling their role.
There seems to be a reversal of democratic order in Brazil. Some rights conquered by natives, quilombolas, peoples of African origin, have been threatened or simply revoked. The ruralist and evangelical groups set the debate and legislate clearly according to their interests.
In a sense, the state endorses society to manifest all kinds of hatred and discrimination. A free ticket is instilled, a land without law, where those who hold the power stand firm in the attempt to annihilate the other, the different, the enemy. And it is as an enemy that many fundamentalist evangelicals refer to the Afro-religious and this is reflected in actions of the Public Power.
A good example are the increasingly frequent cases of babalorixás and ialorixás (pais and mães de santo) (see note three) judged for having their liturgies poorly understood, with evidence that religious racism influences judicial decisions.
Charlatanism, fraude, corporal injury, private prison, mistreatment of animals, disturbance of the order, infraction to the law of silence and sanitary vigilance and gang formation are some of the crimes unjustly imputed upon pais and mães de santo.
Wearing white clothes, fios de conta (guias), or expressing one’s faith has become a risk. The state remains silent, conniving and often seems to reignite the projeto de embranquecimento da nação (nation’s project of whitening). The echoes resonate and applaud the ethnic cleansing one wants to undertake.
To exterminate a people you have to destroy their culture. Perhaps this will make us understand why there is so much persecution of beliefs of African origin. On the basis of racism, the fact of not recognizing the other as human, as equal.
Tell me: are humans those that demonstrate such outrage at a crossroads, but do not they sympathize with the deaths of five young black men shot with more than a hundred police shots without committing any crime? And even if they had committed one, there is no offense to justify inhumanity.
At the beginning of the twentieth century, it was the police that invaded and destroyed candomblé terreiros, now they are the bandits. The State, by action or omission, provides the script of the scenes of horror perpetrated always against the povo negro (black people) and their culture. May the authorities take the necessary measures.
- Babalaô, the junction of words is translated, meaning “father has secrets”, also mentioned as Babalawo, is the name given to the exclusive priests of Orunmilá-Ifá of the Worship of Ifá in the religion Yorubá, of jeje and Nagô cultures.
- Worker who extracts mineral substances from earth.
- A religious minister of Afro-Brazilian religions, qualified to direct or participate in ceremonies of worship and matters related to the zeal of the physical space of ceremonies, religious dogmas and doctrines. In general, they are considered faithful to their belief.