Things That Matter

Evangelical Christian Gangs Have Initiated Violent Holy War Against Afro-Brazilian Religious Groups

Evangelical religious sects are intrinsically linked to the gangs in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The result has been a rise in Brazilian converts to evangelicalism, and increasing attacks on Afro-Brazilian religions who are viewed as “satanic.”

The city mayor is a bishop in a Pentecostal church, home to the right-wing President, and Rio is where the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God, a powerful evangelical church founded by known anti-black bishop Edir Macedo.

Robert Muggah, who researches violence in Latin America, has highlighted Brazilian’s stark evangelical turn and how it is being weaponized against poor, black Brazilians in The Conversation for Associated Press.

What do God and gangs have to do with each other?

Brazilian prisons are not largely state-controlled. Instead, they are nefariously run by a single drug cartel, that uses the prison system to recruit new members and which enables them to run their organized crime operation. In Brazil, 80 of the 100 faith-based organizations that run social programs in prison are evangelical.

It turns out, the “charismatic Christianity” that has taken over Brazil is a great recruiting tool. Inmates who convert to evangelicalism are often rewarded by having their quality of life improved in the prison.

 “Some pastors and denominations strategically bet on converting traffickers in privileged places in the hierarchy of crime,” Christina Vital da Cunha, an associate professor of sociology at Federal Fluminense University, told the Washington Post. 

If an inmate were to foster a positive relationship with a pastor it could mean that once released the person is coaxed into gang affiliation.

“Some of them call themselves ‘Jesus drug dealers,’ creating a unique identity,” said Gilbert Stivanello, commander of the Rio police department’s crimes of intolerance unit, told the Washington Post. “They carry weapons and sell drugs, but feel entitled to forbid African-influenced religions by stating that they are related to the devil.”

These evangelical drug traffickers have apparently taken control of Baixada Fluminense, a region that was once a haven for Afro-Brazilian religions. In 2019, over a third of the attacks on black Brazilian temples happened in Baixada Fluminense.

“According to Brazil’s Institute for Public Security, 2,147 of the 6,714 murders reported in Rio state so far this year occurred in Baixada Fluminense,” Muggah wrote.

Anti-blackness is the dark side of this new religious doctrine.

Afro-Brazilians have always been persecuted in the wake of colonialism. For years many have believed Afro-Brazilian religions are satanic. Wealthy bishop Edir Macedo sold three million copies of a book describing Afro-Brazilians as enemies of the human race before it was banned in 2005.

As ever more Brazilians convert to evangelicalism, traditional religions there are losing members. Between 2000 and 2010, when the latest national census was taken, the number of Catholics in Brazil dropped 9%. Followers of the Afro-Brazilian religions Candomblé and Umbanda declined 23 percent,” Muggah notes.

Parishioners are calling for a “cleanse” of Satan’s work which is coded language for ridding Brazil of Afro-Brazilian religious. When gangs control neighborhoods they tend to ban the practice of Afro-Brazilian religions, resulting in community members who do being expelled.

In Rio state, reports of religious-based violence against followers of Afro-Brazilian religions have risen from 14 in 2016 to 123 in the first 10 months of this year. State authorities call those figures vast undercounts — many victims, they say, are afraid to come forward. More than 200 temples have shut down in the face of threats this year,” the Washington Post notes. 

Why are Brazilians increasingly connecting to a religion that preaches hate?

With President Jair Bolsonaro in power, evangelicals have 195 of 513 seats in congress. The rise in right-wing evangelicalism coincides with a rise in right-wing Christianity all over the world. However, each nation’s conditions are specific to the region. Evangelical music in Brazil is a billion-dollar industry, televangelism rules the TV, the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God claims it has sent out 14,000 church members — an army of proselytizers — to recruit inmates. 

In areas where poverty is rampant, charismatic Christianity promises wealth. The prosperity gospel of these religious sects claims that not only will you gain salvation from cutting out vices like alcohol and gambling, but devotion will lead to financial success.

It’s almost as though these right-wing leaders have combined the rhetoric of the church with the rhetoric of colonialism and the rhetoric of multi-level marketing schemes. A dangerous cocktail for vulnerable people who need help in this life and are hoping for something more profound in the possible next.

While all religions are observed in a way that ranges from the healthy to outright zealotry, of course not all Brazilian evangelicals and Christians support the right-wing sect of the fast-growing Pentecostals and Neopentecostal churches who tie hatred into their rhetoric.

Advocates, citizens, and faith communities are fighting back. In September, Muggah notes, 100,000 people participated in Rio’s annual walk for religious freedom. Federal prosecutors are urging for compensation to those who are victims of religious hate crimes.

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People Are Hoping That Covid Will Give Them Up For Lent This Year

Culture

People Are Hoping That Covid Will Give Them Up For Lent This Year

Covid has changed everything we know about the world for more than a year. As Lent approaches and people make plans to sacrifice to get closer to God, some are hoping Covid does the work instead. We have all given up so much this past year, what more can people sacrifice?

Lent is upon us, which means it is time to make that sacrifice.

Lent is a time when Catholics give something up for 40 days to get close to God. Lent is a six-week period leading up to Easter that is observed by Christians around the world, especially within the Catholic church. The run-up to Easter is a solemn religious practice that is in preparation for the celebration of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Those who practice a more traditional or orthodox Lent give up meat, fish, eggs, and fats from Ash Wednesday until Easter Sunday. A lot of believers choose instead to give up one item of personal importance to show their devotion to their religion.

The tradition has been around for centuries and believers have been practicing Lent diligently. The sacrifices have evolved over the centuries to include give up social media, going to the gym, or watching TV to further devote their time to their religion.

This year, people are hoping that Covid will give them up for Lent.

How nice would it be if Covid just gave up the fight? After months of isolation, social distancing, and giving up so much, it would be nice if Covid did the work for Lent. It is not a hard argument to make that the past year of sacrificing could make up for Lent.

People are not willing to give up something they love after giving up so much.

People around the world have had to make major sacrifices for the betterment of mankind. Covid has forced people to give up seeing their family, friends, and attending major milestone events. So, with Lent upon us, people on Twitter are bargaining with their religion to justify living in quarantine during Lent.

People are really digging their heels in on not giving up anything for Lent.

There are so few things that bring people joy right now. Eating chocolate, drinking wine, or enjoying a little extra television might be the only things getting people through the pandemic right now. Some people are trying to find any other way to participate in Lent to make sure that they stick to their religion while staying happy.

For some people, there is just nothing left to give up for Lent.

It is a hard choice to make. Some schools are not giving students a Spring Break because of Covid and millions remain in some sort of restriction. It is still possible to participate in Lent without giving anything up. Like so many other religious things, you can partake in a different way to satisfy your religious needs.

READ: Admit It, THIS Is The Most Fun Part Of Ash Wednesday

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This Brazilian Mother And Daughter Share A Rare Beauty Mark In The Form Of White Locks

Fierce

This Brazilian Mother And Daughter Share A Rare Beauty Mark In The Form Of White Locks

It’s not every day that we get to see beauty this rare or so brightly celebrated.

Two-year-old Mayah and her daughter Talyta Youssef Aziz Vieira both share a rare genetic condition that means they have a white forelock that makes them look like X-men’s Rogue. Now, their unique traits are going viral and being celebrated on social media.

The mother and daughter pair both have white streaks in their hair due to a genetic condition called Piebaldism.

Talyta, who is from Jericoacoara, Brazil gave birth to daughter Mayah in 2018. According to Daily Mail, the mother was not at all surprised to find out that the two shared the rare trait that gives them two different hair colors. According to Talyta, the genetic condition was passed on to her grandfather, mother, aunt, and cousins, all of whom were born with piebaldism. The genetic condition is characterized by the absence of cells called melanocytes in particular regions of the skin and hair.

According to Talyta’s Instagram page, the young mother said that in her younger years she attempted to hide the white streaks in her hair.

Soon enough, and fortunately, Talyta came to appreciate the trait. Even better? The mother says her daughter has fully embraced her hair mark and enjoys dressing up as Disney character Cruella de Vil while the two watch 101 Dalmatians together.

According to Daily Mail, Talyta says “Piebaldism runs in our family so we knew there was a high probability that Mayah would also have it… From the moment she was born, Mayah had so many white hairs on the front of her head. My doula posted a picture on social media and days later, we were invited by a photographer to do a photo shoot.”

It didn’t take long for the pictures to go viral online.

“I tried to hide my white hair until my twenties. I’d hide it behind other strands – worried that people would bully me,” Taylta explained “I soon realized though that I was unique and special. I want to set that example for Mayah. People always stop us to say how special she is.”

Fortunately, Mayah will have a chance to see someone who looks like her on the big screen soon.

While Mayah’s features have been compared to Rogue from X-Men and Anna from Frozen, the little girl will get a chance to see Cruella in Disney’s soon to be released feature about the villain.

‘That’s when I thought it would be a lovely idea for us to dress up together as those characters. I want Mayah to have fun memories about the way she looks,” Taylta explained about her images of her daughter on Instagram “I want her to embrace being a superhero. Other people who are different have reached out to us thanking us for helping them accept themselves. It’s so sad that people have hid themselves away. We don’t need to be the same to be beautiful. Everyone has a heart inside to accept and love. We are living in a time of knowledge and transformation. Let’s embrace what makes us different.”

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