Note from BW of Brazil: This story is actually from early last month, and even though nearly two months have passed since this report, I felt it was still necessary to share with readers because it shows that not only do followers of the African origin religion of candomblé have to defend themselves from the persecution of everyday people, Christians and their pastors, and the media, but also the government that one would think would guarantee their right to worship and religious freedom.
The demolition of a candomblé temple in Brasília and religious freedom
By Danilo Molina
Once again, adherents of the religions of African origin were surprised by an act of aggression and religious intolerance. Unfortunately, the abuse came from an entity that should fully guarantee religious freedom and beliefs, the Brazilian state itself. It’s that the Government of the Federal District (GDF) overturned the construction of a branch of the candomblé terreiro (temple of worship) Caboclo Boiadeiro, one of the oldest of the federal capital, founded in 1975.
The persecutory character of the GDF’s action against the religions of African origin was verified by the Ordem dos Advogados do Brasil (Brazilian Bar Association) of the Federal District, which decided to appeal the case, based on the understanding that the destruction of the terreiro was an act of religious intolerance. Among the aggravating factors are the center’s allegation that they were not notified of the untimely act of the government and the fact that the inspectors did not request to verify the documentation of the center and didn’t even let the visitors remove the liturgical and sacred elements from inside the temple, before the act of demolition.
Although the GDF’s claim that the demolished terreiro was “recent and irregular” and that removals in places “do not require prior notification”, the truculent and authoritarian nature of the entire process is unacceptable. Since last year, the terriero had already entered a request to regularize the area with the competent authorities.
However, instead of opting for dialogue, understanding and pacifism, GDF went on the attack, reinforcing a culture of intolerance, oppression and prejudice, against the adherents of the religions of African origin. The question remains: why are aggressions always against the terreiros? In Rio de Janeiro, to give another example, reports of drug traffickers ordering the closure of terreiros in the poor communities began to recur.
According to more recent data from Disque 100, the complaints service of the Ministry of Human Rights, increased registrations of discrimination against adherents of these religions by 7.5% in the first half of 2018. The denunciations by discrimination against all the religions fell from 255 to 210, a reduction of 17% in the same period. This is just one more indication that the increase in acts of religious intolerance is directed to the so-called povo de santo.
The Federal Constitution guarantees religious freedom, the free exercise of religious services and the protection of places of worship and their respective liturgies. But the escalation of hatred against the terreiros passes over the cold letter of the law and carries a strong historical component. From 1500 to 1824, only Catholicism was allowed. In Colonial Brazil, native peoples and slaves were subjected to forced Jesuit catechization, and blacks brought to Africa by force were prevented from performing their cults.
The official separation between the state and the church only occurred after the proclamation of the republic in 1890, soon after the end of slavery, but didn’t include the religiosity and cultural expressions of blacks. The former slaves were relegated to their own resources, in an extremely prejudiced society, being forced to face severe difficulties in accessing the labor market and education. A similar process to what occurred in the accepting of their culture and religion.
All of this colonial and enslavement past cannot be disregarded when analyzing cases of intolerance and prejudice against the religions of African origin. It is not only prejudice against a religion, but also against a whole segment of Brazilian society, marked by a historical process of deep social exclusion.
The situation is even more dramatic when the aggressions come from the state itself, as in the case of the demolition of the Caboclo Boiadeiro terreiro on the part of the GDF. But this povo de santo (followers of candomblé), who were able to overcome slavery, will continue to resist in the face of the aftereffects of this colonial and slave-owning past. A key step in this confrontation would be to criminalize religious intolerance, so that hate crimes against our terreiros would not go unpunished, as in most cases.
After all, our country can only be a de facto democracy, when the integral defense of human rights transcends any political, religious or ideological position. In addition, when the Brazilian state is able to guarantee the individual and collective rights of all, regardless of social status, gender, religion, sexual orientation and race. It is our unquestionable civilizing duty.