March Defends Religious Freedom in Copacabana

Originally published September 17, 2017 by Bruno Calixto for O Globo:

Translated for by Melissa Oliver

Religious leaders asked for peace and action from the state to designate attacks against Baba and Iyalorishas as terrorism.

Respect and punishment. This was the rally cry during the march in defense of religious freedom that took place at Orla Copacabana this Sunday afternoon by the Commission to Combat Intolerance.

“It’s cultural genocide,” said Umbandista Andre Lima.

71706078_ri-rio-de-janeiro-rj-17-09-2017-10-caminhada-contra-a-intolerancia-religiosa-copacabana-f1The march began at 1pm and lasted for about two hours. The organizers estimated 50,000 people participated, the majority dressed in white.

“There’s a dangerous mixture of drug dealers with fanatics of other religions, who are also behind cases of violence that surfaced on social media this week,” says a practitioner of Candomble, of the videos that circulated the Internet with scenes of aggression suffered by Iya and Babalorishas in the Baixada Fluminense [borough of Rio de Janeiro].

In 2016, 759 cases of intolerance were registered in the state of Rio de Janeiro. At the end of the march, religious leaders asked for peace and action from the state [of Rio] in terms of transforming acts of intolerance into terrorism.

The babalawo Ivanir dos Santos participated and charged the authorities with taking on a more energetic position against crimes of intolerance.

“The motivation of this march is equal to the first, which took place in 2008. This shows that the legislative powers, executive and judiciary, haven’t done anything. We show a very strong reaction, because today we gathered as people of Umbanda, we had Evanglicals and other groups with us.  We’re here, but one issue is the state and another is the civil society. It’s up to the public power to take concrete steps so that these crimes are recognized as such and punished. The community has to stay vigilant and [has to be] heard. The authorities have to apply a more severe law and the Federal Government should recognize that this is a problem,” stated the babalawo who will meet next Friday with Eduardo Gussem, Attorney General Justice of Rio.

For the artist Afonso Tostes, it’s, “absurd to think that freedom of expression and demonstration of faith, whatever it is, would be threatened by terrorism.”

“Even worse is knowing how much crime and violence has come to Rio, a city and state known for (at least until some time ago) being a place of vanguards and progressive thought,” he said.

The persecution that African [culture], principally Candomble and Umbanda, have suffered in the last few years and intensified this week, for Afonso Tostes (Aparode of the Ile Omiojuaro), can’t be treated as a drop of water in the ocean.

“The truth is that this ocean is already overflowing, and more people – mostly Blacks and young people – don’t need to die so that, not just the state but society, takes a stand. The state is not even secular, and much less interested in acting. We have to take responsibility for transforming this place into a decent country for our children and grandchildren. Axe.”

The Civil Police identified a portion of those responsible for the seven attacks against Candomble and Umbanda terreiros that took place in the last weeks at different locations in Nova Iguassu in the Baixada Fluminense [borough of Rio de Janeiro]. One person was indicted in a police investigation based on the Law of Racism for religious discrimination.