Note from BW of Brazil: A few weeks ago, we presented a brief historical perspective on Brazil’s ongoing, long time persecution of Afro-Brazilian religious rites which have were recently re-initiated with controversial statements by a Rio-based judge who declared that such practices didn’t “constitute religions”. After protests, Afro-Brazilian religious leaders successfully appealed to the courts to have videos considered offensive to their religious practices removed from the You Tube video network. In videos that continue Brazil’s long-time demonization of Afro-Brazilian religious rites, Evangelical preachers are shown attempting to “expel” demons from former followers of these religions. These types of videos no doubt contribute further to the negative stereotypes that these religions already have in the minds of millions of Brazilians.
Religious hate goes viral: Videos with offenses to Candomblé and Umbanda multiply on the Internet
by Dandara Tinoco
The script is almost always the same: a crowded faithful church, the pastor announces that there’s a tormented soul. The announcement is followed by the entrance of a man in spasms, held by a group of employees of the temple. He presents himself as Exu (1) and answers a series of questions asked by another man, who identifies himself as a pastor. He says he wants to destroy the life of the incorporated, a frequenter of Candomblé. But admits to being weak and just overwhelmed by the divine power.
The scene is repeated in thousands of videos found on the internet. “Macumbeiro (follower of ‘voodoo’) (2) pastor challenges himself and converts to Jesus”, “500 demons expelled and ripping out macumba” and “Testimony of former ex-macumbeiro (voodoo practitioner)” are the titles of some of them. Although the offending short films that started the controversy involving the judge of the 17th Federal Court of Rio de Janeiro’s Eugênio Rosa de Araújo – who said Candomblé and Umbanda are not religions – have been removed, similar insults continue to proliferate in online.
“The internet has been used deliberately. People think that the web is no man’s land, so currently this is a major means of dissemination of offenses,” says the commissioner Henrique Pessoa, designated by the Civil Police to monitor cases of religious intolerance in Rio. “This type of action has hindered much work to curb discrimination. There are sites with insults hosted abroad. And even when videos are removed, shortly afterwards, others are placed on the air.”
A quick search on YouTube shows the proportions of the problem. The combination of the terms “Candomblé” and “demônio” (demon) results in 7,290 occurrences. “Umbanda” and “Lúcifer” result in 4,610. The expression “Ex-pai de santo” (ex-holy father) (3) is associated with 13,600 videos. Besides exorcism rituals, the material found on the web shows a festival of offensives to religions of African origin, erroneously associated with the devil. In one, a pastor says that a woman incorporated Iansã – the orixá of storms and winds in the mythology of Candomblé – has sex with the devil. Another shows the journey of a shepherd who goes to Bahia with a mission to unearth a decree. In a third, a religious man says a young man who “lives in homosexuality” is incorporated by Lúcifer, but now will make “a covenant with God.”
The controversial sentence of the Rio judge referred to 15 videos with similar content. One of them showed an “ex-macumbeira” recounting his conversion to a Pentecostal religion. In another, you see a “interview from the back.” There was also the presentation of a “young ex-pai de santo manifesting a demon at the time of reconciliation.” The action that led to the removal of material was moved in February by the Associação Nacional de Mídia Afro (ANMA or National Association of Afro Media). The group asked the Ministério Público Federal (federal prosecutors) to conduce the Courts Justice to solicit Google, owner of YouTube, for the removal of short films, posted by ministers or representatives of evangelical churches. After incurring the wrath of supporters of Candomblé and Umbanda, Eugênio Rosa de Araújo reviewed the fundamentals of the sentence and admitted the error. In June, the preliminary decision of the 2nd Regional Federal Court ordered the withdrawal of the videos from the air.
Pastor: “Church offers the door of liberation”
Director of the Associação dos Pastores e Ministros Evangélicos do Brasil (Association of Evangelical Pastors and Ministers of Brazil), Carlos de Oliveira says that the ceremonies shown by the videos are normal in neo-Pentecostal Evangelical churches and that the rites do not constitute disrespect to Afro-Brazilian religions.
“We live in a democratic country, and the beauty of the democratic country is freedom of religion. There are people who worship Satan. They know that the devil comes out to do bad things, but resolve to worship him. But we consider that some characters of African religion don’t do good. If the person wants to continue with being that, okay. But if you seek help, the Evangelical church offers the door to liberation. This does not mean that Candomblé has no legitimacy to exist,” opines the pastor of Assembleia de Deus (Assembly of God).
Already Google has explained that it din’t exercise prior censorship of YouTube content. When users of the website indicate videos that may violate guidelines, the team reviews them to assess whether the material should be removed. “The role of balancing fundamental rights such as freedom of expression and religious freedom is not fitting to those responsible for digital platforms, to determine what content should or should not be removed. Such a role is exclusive to the judiciary. If there is a court order determining the removal of content, Google will abide by it,” the company adds.
The importance of state action in the control of religious discrimination is emphasized by the lawyer Hédio Silva Júnior, who represented ANMA in case of videos removed from the air:
“Brazil has a diverse society culturally and religiously. In a context like this, the State has the role of promoting peaceful coexistence and ensuring that all religions are respected,” says the lawyer. “I understand that the country needs a law regulating the freedom of belief, which would make minority groups feel more protected. What happens today is that religions called majoritarian, especially preserving a close proximity to State, also have their decisions most respected.”
1. Exu (other names include Èṣù, Echu, Elegua, Elegbara, Elegba, Legba, Papa Legba and Eleda) is both an orixá/orisha (deity) and one of the most well-known deities of Yorùbá religion and related New World traditions. Source
2. The term “Macumbeira” is a derogatory term used in reference to persons who are thought to practice “Macumba”, which was the name used for all Bantu religious practices mainly by Afro-Brazilians in the northeastern state of Bahia in the 19th Century. “Macumba”, and the term “Macumbeira”, became common in some parts of Brazil and this word is used by most people as a pejorative word meaning “black witchcraft”, although actual practitioners don’t view the term negatively. In some ways, it is equal to saying someone practices “Voodoo” or “Voudoon”, another misunderstood, negatively viewed religion practiced in Haiti. “Macumbeira” is a common used term to slight Afro-Brazilians whether they are actually practitioners of Afro-Brazilian religions or not. See here for other examples.
3. “Pai de santo” and “mãe de santo” are designations for holy fathers and mothers, priest or priestesses of Afro-Brazilian religions such as Umbanda and Candomblé.
Source: Blog do BG