Note from BW of Brazil: Assaults of sacred temples and leaders of Afro-Brazilian religions is yet another aspect of Brazil’s rejection of its African heritage. We’ve seen some shocking attacks on temples of worship, religious accessories as well as followers of the religion. These attacks have increased dramatically in recent years and some of them have been caught on video and posted on the online video platform, YouTube. On December 28th, a monument rock that is considered sacred by followers of the Candomble religion was the target of the latest attack. The story below reveals how religious leaders are seeking assistance from authorities to ensure their safety and respect of their religious beliefs.
After the death of Mãe Stella de Oxóssi, in Bahia cases of intolerance increase
The last episode of 2018 was the attack on the Pedra de Xangô, in Salvador
Courtesy of Correio 24 Horas
Ending one year and entering another and the cases of attacks on religious heritage only increased in Bahia. According to the Secretariat for the Promotion of Racial Equality in Bahia (Sepromi), between 2017 and 2018 there was a 124% increase in crimes of religious intolerance committed in the state. In the historical series of the last six years, this growth reached 2,250%.
Since its inception in 2013, the Centro de Referência de Combate ao Racismo e à Intolerância Religiosa Nelson Mandela (Nelson Mandela Center for Reference to Combating Racism and Religious Intolerance) has recorded 153 cases of intolerance, 272 of racism and 57 incidents related to the topic. Of the total registrations of religious intolerance, 16 correspond to attacks on terreiros (temples of worship).
According to the coordinator of the organ, Nairobi Aguiar, the growth of the cases is due to the increase of the intolerance in the society and the greater demand for the organ. However, for her, there are clear indications that many cases are not registered:
“A lot of people don’t record the occurrences because they don’t believe in the organs of justice or because they are afraid, and those who go to the police station often record the case as an invasion of property. They don’t understand that they were victims of religious intolerance,” she explains.
Violations of religious monuments and property are considered cases of religious discrimination or prejudice, defined in Law 9.459 of 1997, which deals precisely with crimes resulting from discrimination or prejudice of race, color, ethnicity, religion or national origin.
The public defender, César Ulisses da Costa, of the Specialized Human Rights Office, explained that the crime even violates the Federal Constitution, which provides for freedom of worship and the existence of multiple religions.
Further, according to the defender, practicing the crime of religious intolerance generates criminal and civil penalties. Criminal prosecution is the responsibility of the Public Prosecution Service, and the offender is required to intervene, through criminal representation. In the civil case, there are actions for damages.
Pedra de Xangô
This was exactly what the External Working Group for the Implementation of the Xangô Stone Network Park and Apa Municipal Vale dos Assis Valente, as well as representatives of Salvador’s terreiro communities, made after the attack on the religious monument on Friday, December 28th.
The Pedra de Xangô (Xangô Stone)*, located in the Cajazeiras neighborhood, was vandalized, when more than 100 kilos of salt was poured on the property, on the 29th. The attack was reported Saturday, and after a cleanup with help from Limpurb, another attack, with a much smaller amount of salt, occurred again on Tuesday, January 1st.
On Wednesday (2), a petition was filed with the Bahia Public Prosecutor’s Office (MP-BA), requesting action on the crime.
In the petition filed on Wednesday (2) in the Public Ministry it was requested that, in addition to a crime of religious intolerance, the attack with salt on Pedra de Xangô is also considered an environmental crime.
“In addition to the act of vandalism, considered a crime of aggression against a public pproperty, there was also an environmental crime, since the salt damages the soil and the water table, preventing the species from being born (…) The extension of the APA Municipal Vale do Assis Valente and the surroundings of the Pedra de Xangô cultural property continue to undergo anthropic interventions that threaten the physical integrity,” says an excerpt of the document.
Prosecutor Lívia Vaz stated that the fact that “the Pedra de Xangô is located in the area of the former Quilombo Buraco do Tatu”, it will still be taken into account in the analysis of the representation, and has therefore become “a great reference for the religions of African matrices over time.”
According to Sepromi, it is not only the crimes of religious intolerance that are of concern to the Bahian population. The secretariat’s records show that between 2013 and 2018, 480 crimes against freedoms were recorded – including racism, religious intolerance and other related crimes.
The aggression against Pedra de Xangô was received with sadness and indignation by the povo de santo (followers of the Candombléreligion).
Maria Alice Pereira da Silva, the lawyer responsible for the petition submitted to the Bahia Public Prosecutor’s Office and one of the founders of the official portal of the religious monument, said that besides the risk of repeated acts of vandalism like this, there is also the risk of invasions, such as what have already happened around the monument.
One of the requests made to the MP-BA that will be the target of the procedure is the installation of security cameras in the surroundings of Pedra de Xangô, as well as the intensification of policing in the place.
The Military Police of Bahia said in a note that the rounds will be intensified in the region. “Ostensible policing is carried out daily by the 3rd CIPM, through rounds with vehicles. The teams perform blitzes and preventive approaches. The police actions count on the reinforcement of garrisons of the Independent Tactical Company (CIPT) Rondesp Central and the Pelotão de Emprego Tático Operacional (Peto) of the unit,” he declared.
Mãe Stella de Oxóssi is target of religious intolerance in social networks
Mãe Stella de Oxóssi, who died at age 93 on December 27th, has been the target of religious intolerance in posts in the social networks. On Wednesday the 2nd, a web surfer not agreeing with the news of the avenue that received the name of the lalorixá (priestess), manifested: “Instead of looking to God, go seek to do macumba (see note one) for the evil of others,” the person said in a comment on Facebook.
This was not the first offense, comments like “one less a macumbeiro” (see note one), “she’ll be in hell one of these hours” and “God was still good with this macumbeira” were published on the net.
Other people who saw the attack criticized the stance of the intolerant and made denunciations in the social network. Some messages have already been deleted.
The ogã (see note two) Rimbar Daniel said that he read the comment with sadness and that the desire of the community of Ilê Axé Opô Afonjá is that the woman retract it. “I went to the prosecution as soon as I had access to the prints on the mayor’s page. Because it’s something very serious, especially if it’s a personality like our Stella,” he said.
The way the aggressor refers to the mãe de santo (priestess), according to Daniel, acts as an “accelerator of anger and serves only to create and disseminate hatred among people. We experienced such a sad and difficult time to do the burial, we need to file a lawsuit, which was terrible. And now this.” Ribamar Daniel commented that he spoke directly with Lívia Vaz, who, according to him, is responsible for the investigation of the case.
*The history of Pedra de Xangô (Xangô Stone) is associated with a symbol of resistance. The monument was used by slaves who fled the plantations located in the region during the 19th century as a hiding place. Before known as Pedra do Buraco da Onça, it was hidden by a bush, which helped the slaves in their escape. Today, it is considered a sacred monument by religions of African origin.
- Although macumba is actually an African percussion instrument, the term is often used in a pejorative manner that refers to witchcraft in a manner similar to how people think of voodoo, or voudoun. The macumbeira is also seen with negative connotations in reference to one practices macumba. These terms are usually applied to Afro-Brazilian religions such as candomble or umbanda.
- Ogã is the generic name for various male functions within a candomblé house. He is the priest chosen by the orixá to be lucid during all the works.