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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Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro Blames Indigenous Tribes For Amazon Fires

Things That Matter

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro Blames Indigenous Tribes For Amazon Fires

jairmessiasbolsonaro / Instagram

President Jair Bolsonaro is blaming the indigenous community for the fires that raged in the Amazon. The fires set off international outrage as the rainforest faced unprecedented destruction by out of control fires. President Bolsonaro went against the rest of the international community during a speech to the U.N.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro wants the United Nations to know that indigenous people were responsible for the Amazon fires.

In a remote session opening the U.N. General Assembly, President Bolsonaro spoke at length about the indigenous communities starting the fires. He also used the speech to speak out against the criticism his administration is receiving over his environmental policies and his response to Covid. Brazil is currently the second most infected country in the world with the second highest death rate.

The Amazon has experienced increased fires since President Bolsonaro took office.

For the first seven months of 2020, 13,000 sq. km. (5,019 sq. miles) of the Brazilian rainforest have burned. This year saw the second-highest level of fires on a global scale with fires raging across the Amazon, Australia, and the West Coast of the U.S.

President Bolsonaro openly contradicted expert findings to fit his narrative.

President Bolsonaro claims that the humidity of the forest contains the fires. According to President Bolsonaro’s speech, fires in the Amazon only happen in certain areas because of how well the humidity can keep the fires in check.

“The fires practically occur in the same places, on the east side of the forest, where peasants and Indians burn their fields in already deforested areas,” Bolsonaro said.

President Bolsonaro’s speech touches on the environmental record his administration is known for.

The Bolsonaro administration has made dismantling environmental and indigenous rights since taking power. The administration has worked to limit the amount of land available to indigenous people and to open up Amazonian rainforest to miners, loggers, farmers, developers, and other uses that are damaging and contributing to the fires. Deforestation by these industries are largely to blame for the out-of-control wildfires that burned for a very long time in the Brazilian Amazon.

Activists are getting ready to fight for the indigenous community and the rainforest.

“We must denounce this political catastrophe that destroys the environment and our future,” Sonia Guajajara, head of Brazil’s main Indigenous umbrella organization, to NBC News.

READ: Under Bolsonaro, The Brazilian Amazon Has Reached Record-Breaking Levels Of Deforestation

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People Have A Lot Of Opinions About The Argentina Episode Of Netflix’s ‘Street Food: Latin America’

Culture

People Have A Lot Of Opinions About The Argentina Episode Of Netflix’s ‘Street Food: Latin America’

Manuel Velasquez / Getty Images

Netflix has a new food show out and it has everyone buzzing. “Street Food: Latin America” is bringing everyone the sabor of Latin America to their living room. However, reviews are mixed because of Argentina and the lack of Central American representation.

Netflix has a new show and it is all about Latin American street food.

Some of the best food in the world comes from Latin America. That is just a fact and it isn’t because our families and community come for Latin America. Okay, maybe just a little. The food of Latin America comes with history and stories that have shaped our childhood. For many of us, it is the only thing we have that connects us to the lands our families have left.

The show is highlighting the contributions of women to street food.

“Street Food: Latin America” focuses mainly on the women that are leading the street food cultures in different countries in Latin America. For some of them, it was a chance to bring themselves out of poverty and care for their children. For others, it was a rebellion against the male-dominated culture of cooking in Latin America.

However, some people have some strong opinions about the show and they aren’t good.

There is a lot of attention to native communities in the Latino community culturally right now. The Argentina episode where someone claims that Argentina is more European is rubbing people the wrong way right now. While the native population of Argentina is small, it is still important to highlight and honor native communities who are indigenous to the lands.

The disregard for the indigenous community is upsetting because indigenous Argentinians are fighting for their lives and land.

An A Jazeera report focused on an indigenous community in northern Argentina who were fighting to protect their land. After decades of discrimination and humiliation, members of the Wichi community fought to protect their land from the Argentinian government grabbing it in 2017. Early this year, before Covid, children of the tribe started to die at alarming rates of malnutrition.

Another pain point in the Latino community is the complete disregard of Central America.

Central America includes Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Belize, and Panama. Central America’s exclusion is not sitting right with Netflix users with Central American heritage. Like, how can five whole countries be looked over during a Netflix show about street food in Latin America?

Seems like there is a chance for Netflix to revisit Latin America for more food content.

There are so many countries in Latin America that offer delicious foods to the world. There is more to Latin America than Brazil, Mexico, Peru, Argentina, Colombia, and Bolivia.

READ: This Iconic Mexican Food Won The Twitter Battle To Be Named Latin America’s Best Street Food

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