As evan­gel­i­cal­ism rises, hate crimes shake Brazil’s re­li­gious melt­ing pot


Brazil’s im­age as a re­li­gious melt­ing pot has been shaken in re­cent weeks by a se­ries of hate crimes, rais­ing alarm over grow­ing in­tol­er­ance amid a surge in Evan­gel­i­cal Chris­tian­ity.

Brazil­ians are known for fus­ing African, Euro­pean and in­dige­nous be­liefs into a di­verse ar­ray of col­or­ful lo­cal tra­di­tions.

But that syn­cretism has re­cently come un­der fire in a wave of at­tacks on prac­ti­tion­ers of spir­i­tu­al­ism and Afro-Brazil­ian re­li­gions.

Ear­lier this month, Gilberto Ar­ruda, a well-known medium pop­u­lar with the stars, was found mur­dered, his hands bound and face swollen, at a spir­i­tual cen­ter in Rio de Janeiro.

Ar­ruda, 73, was known for prac­tic­ing “spir­i­tual surgery,” and claimed to be able to re­ceive the spirit of a World War II Ger­man doc­tor.

The tomb of the coun­try’s most fa­mous medium, Chico Xavier, was also vandalized in Minas Gerais state.

Sev­eral days ear­lier, also in Rio de Janeiro, an 11- yearold girl, Kailane Cam­pos, was hit in the head with a stone when two men as­saulted her fam­ily on its way home from a Can­domble ser­vice, an AfroBrazil­ian re­li­gion whose prac­ti­tion­ers dress in white for cer­e­monies.

The fam­ily said the men waved a Bi­ble at them and shouted “Devils!” and “Je­sus will re­turn!” be­fore hurl­ing a stone and wound­ing the girl.

Mayor Ed­uardo Paes apolo- gized “in the name of all Rio cit­i­zens” and warned that the city, which is gear­ing up to host the 2016 Olympics, risked dam­ag­ing its im­age of tol­er­ance.

“Di­ver­sity is Rio’s brand. It’s un­ac­cept­able for peo­ple to be at­tacked be­cause of their re­li­gion,” he said.

Media Might, Po­lit­i­cal Power

No one has been con­victed in any of the re­cent hate crimes.

But they have prompted a back­lash against Evan­gel­i­cals from some who per­ceive the grow­ing power of the new Protes­tant Churches as a threat.

Evan­gel­i­cals have made ma­jor in­roads in Brazil in the past 30 years.

In 1970, just 5 per­cent of the pop­u­la­tion was Protes­tant. To­day, the fig­ure is 22 per­cent — some 44 mil­lion peo­ple.

There are Evan­gel­i­cal tele­vi­sion net­works, ra­dio sta­tions and a po­lit­i­cal move­ment that is now the third-largest group in Congress.

Known as the Evan­gel­i­cal Front, it op­poses racial and gen­der equal­ity, abor­tion and gay mar­riage.

Re­li­giously mo­ti­vated hate crimes are not new in Brazil but “are get­ting worse” with the rise of Evan­gel­i­cal­ism, said Ivanir dos San­tos, a “ba­bal­awo,” or Can­domble guardian of se­crets.

Dos San­tos has, since 2007, or­ga­nized an an­nual march against re­li­gious in­tol­er­ance on Rio’s famed Copaca­bana beach that draws hun­dreds of thou­sands of peo­ple.

“In a city that’s go­ing to host the Olympic Games, we have to sup­port cul­tural told AFP.

“We’re not against the Evan­gel­i­cals but against a fas­cist mi­nor­ity that wants to rule over all of us with hege­monic power. It’s dan­ger­ous for free­dom of speech and Brazil­ian democ­racy.”

di­ver­sity,” he

Bat­tle for Brazil­ian Soul

Brazil has the largest Catholic pop­u­la­tion in the world, some 123 mil­lion peo­ple.

But many of those Catholics have a very fluid no­tion of their faith.

Ev­ery year, mil­lions of Brazil­ians at­tend Christ­mas mass then dress in white on New Year’s Eve and make of­fer­ings to Ye­manja, the god­dess of the sea in Can­domble.

Many of them also be­lieve in medi­ums, spir­its and rein­car­na­tion.

But the Evan­gel­i­cal Churches strongly re­ject African- in­flu­enced tra­di­tions.

The ef­fect is es­pe­cially vis­i­ble in poor com­mu­ni­ties, where Evan­gel­i­cals have made es­pe­cially large in­roads.

Many of the drug traf­fick­ers who rule over Brazil’s fave­las, or slums, have con­verted to Evan­gel­i­cal­ism — thanks partly to the pas­tors who preach in the coun­try’s over­pop­u­lated pris­ons — and have now banned Can­domble places of wor­ship on their turf, ac­cord­ing to Dos San­tos.

That is chang­ing the soul of cities like Rio de Janeiro, said He­lio San­tos, head of the In­sti­tute for Di­ver­sity.

“This group of neo-Pen­te­costal­ists have changed the mod­ern cul­ture of the city. The joy of car­ni­val and samba has be­come a sin,” he said.

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