Note from BW of Brazil: This is more than a little disturbing. Attacks and demonization of Afro-Brazilian religions have been going on, basically, since the first Africans began arriving in Brazil and in recent years these assaults have gotten really ugly, particulatrly in the poor, periphery regions where drug lords rule. One of the key aspects of the undermining of the black population in Brazil has been the attack and/or appropriation of black cultural practices.
For centuries, Christianity has been used as a political weapon for the subjugation of non-white peoples, and in Brazil, the Evangelical wing of Christianity has been a particularly hostile element in the divulging of demonic associations with African-origin/influenced religions such as Candomblé and Umbanda.
Under the threat of drug lords, adherents of Candomblé and Umbanda have been intimidated into not wearing their religious attire due to restrictions ordered by traffickers. In extreme cases of humiliation and oppression, followers leave their faiths altogether out of fear for their lives.
Religious intolerance has a history in Brazil dating back to 1824 when the first constitution declared Catholocism the Empire’s first religion. Later, in 1830, article 276 of the Criminal Code legalized the imposition of a fine on anyone known to practice any other religion, along with the destruction of any non-Christian house of worship. The Penal code of 1890 criminalized any sort spiritism that was connected to African spiritual belief systems.
Up to the decade of the 80s, the relationship between drug traffickers and African-origin religions was amicable. For those who watched the blockbuster film Cidade de Deus/City of God, you will remember the scene of the boy killer Dadinho (Lil’ Dice) being renamed Zé Pequeno (Lil´Zé) in a Candomblé terreiro (temple) and afterwards fully immersing himself into a life of drugs and violence. But in the decades that would follow, neo-Pentecostal churches began to increase their works in prisons and poor communities, provoking profound spiritual transformation in these areas.
An impressive percentage of favela outcasts reformed themselves, were converted and successfully left the world of crime. But still many others didn’t leave the life although they adapted the religious ideals and developed relationships with neighborhood pastors. They accepted prayers, listened to sermons and, due to the lives they led, sought protection from a higher power. The religious influence could be noted in the grafitti scrawlings of Biblical verses and the Christian songs that played on local radio stations.
This rise in the influence of Evangelical churches provoked a change in the relationship between local drug lords and Afro-Brazilian religions as Evangelicals painted Umbanda and Candomblé as evil, demonic and the work of the devil. As the Evangelical doctrine slowly spread, it encouraged a sort of “spiritual warfare” and militancy amongst its newest converts, provoking attitudes of intolerance. Afro-Brazilian religious temples and symbols would come to be seen as demonic forces that needed to be expelled “in the name of Jesus”.
This association of Afro-Brazilian religions with evil has only increased and reached new heights of violent repression at the command of its Evangelical drug lords. Another sad facet of these attacks by religious zealots is the fact that many of those who carry out such heinous crimes against these temples are also black. Authorities believe that as many as 200 of these religious temples in Rio de Janeiro are at risk of being plundered.
Check the story below for the details of some recent arrests that were made in connection to these attacks.
Eight Suspects of depredations of terreiros are arrested In Rio de Janeiro; Pastor is suspected of inciting crime
With information from Blog do Olhar Negro
The Civil Police are investigating an evangelical church pastor pointed to as the mastermind of attacks on African-based religious centers in the Baixada Fluminense region of Rio de Janeiro. One operation arrested eight people suspected of participating in the “Bonde de Jesus” (Jesus trolley), responsible for the vandalism.
In an operation on Wednesday (14), five traffickers from the Parque Paulista community were arrested. Three others were arrested on Tuesday (13). According to the police chief, the group that practiced the attacks on the terreiros has others on the run. In addition, another as killed on Wednesday.
“We identified 21 traffickers, and we were able to arrest eight. One of them identified the pastor who was the spokesman for the trafficker, who determined the invasion of African descendant cultural centers,” said police chief Túlio Pelosi, head of the 62nd DP (Imbariê). “No religious intolerance will be allowed,” Pelosi guaranteed.
The head of the Terceiro Comando Puro (Pure Third Command) crime sydicate in the Parque Paulista, in addition to favelas like Cidade Alta, in Parada de Lucas, and Vigário Geral, is Álvaro Malaquias Santa Rosa. Known as “Peixão”, he acted with extreme violence in attacks on the terreiros. According to the police chief, “Peixão” is also the pastor of an evangelical church.
The orders to plunder candomblé spaces are believed to have come from him. One of the attacks took place on July 11, against a terreiro in Parque Paulista. The temple’s priestess, a woman in her 80s, was targeted with a gun. The space that has been in the region for more than 50 years had objects that were considered sacred by its practicioners smashed into the ground and destroyed.
Only in this division, there were at least two attacks this year motivated by religious intolerance, says Pelosi. Known as Peixão, the trafficker Santa Rosa is thought to be hiding in another community in Rio, Parada de Lucas/Vigário Geral.
“We opened another investigation to analyze the performance of a pastor as the ‘spokesman’ of Peixão in these crimes,” saiud the police chief.
Also according to Pelosi, the traffickers attend the Assembleia de Deus Ministério de Portas Abertas (Assembly of God Ministry of Open Doors) of Sarapuí, a church in the Duque de Caxias region that in social networks announces services such as “Knowing the God of Provision”. In making the report, an attempt was made to contact the religious congregation and also with lawyers of the suspects, but at press time, it was not possible.
“In all the communities dominated by this faction, the traffickers prevent, break, threaten and expel practicioners and owners of terreiros of Afro-descendant religions”, says the delegate. “They proclaim themselves the ‘Bonde de Jesus’.
Many evangelicals believe that followers of Afro-Brazilian beliefs worship “false gods” and think that entities of the Umbanda or the Candomblé, for example, are demonic manifestations.
This vision is nourished by several leaders, among them Bishop Edir Macedo, of the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God, who in the 1990s released the book Orixás, Caboclos e Guias: Deuses ou Demônios? (Orixás, Caboclos and Guias: Gods or Demons?)”. The bestseller was reissued this year. Macedo is also onwer of one of Brazil’s biggest television networks, Rede Record.
After the July attack, Ivanir dos Santos, a babalaô of the Commission to Combat Religious Intolerance, complained about the “inertia of the authorities” and said Governor Wilson Witzel did not make room on the agenda to discuss the attacks against religions of African origin.
On Wednesday, Witzel congratulated the Civil Police “for the extensive investigation that has identified and is arresting traffickers named as the perpetrators of crimes of religious intolerance.