Evangelicals believe that the worship of idols or saints is blasphemous and some even consider it witchcraft and feel empowered to take action.

Faithful pray and sing during a mass of the Ministry of the Faith church in Brasilia, Brazil on September 26, 2018.
Faithful pray and sing during a mass of the Ministry of the Faith church in Brasilia, Brazil on September 26, 2018. (Reuters)

Roughly a half million people in Brazil participate in religions brought to the Americas hundreds of years ago by African slaves. Practitioners worship ancestral spirits that they say guide people through the world. But these religions are under attack from a growing evangelical Christian movement. 

Mae Mena D' Oxossi is a priestess in the Afro-Brazilian religion, Umbanda. She's been practicing for more than 35 years, and she's felt her share of prejudice. "I have suffered a lot. I still suffer today. ‘Watch out, your wife is a witch. Don't marry a witch. Look at her, she's going to do voodoo.’"

She says the worst moment was when her own daughter came home with an evangelical Christian minister and they broke all of her saints.

Michael Fox reports from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

In one of the most prominent cases of religious intolerance, the head of a Candomble temple was forced to break her saint statues at gunpoint by a narco-trafficker connected with evangelicals. Afraid for her life, she later fled the country.

In just the first three months of this year, hate crimes against Afro-Brazilian religious groups increased more than 50 percent from the same period last year. Hundreds of cases of vandalism and threats have been reported.

In response, last year, the state of Rio de Janeiro founded the country's first Council for Religious Freedom, and opened a hotline for reports of religious intolerance.

"What we are seeing, is that a religion is being slowly destroyed,” says Marcio de Jagun from the State Council for the Promotion of Religious Freedom. “Several Afro-Brazilian temples are being decimated each year."

The council has been pushing for laws that would make religious harassment a crime and compensate victims. Investigations and prosecutions have taken place, but justice is slow.

According to the council, evangelical churches and their members have been behind the bulk of the attacks. These groups say Afro-Brazilian religions are witchcraft and the work of the devil. That message has spread. 

Juceyr Soares, a street vender, supports the church in its crackdown."For me, you should wipe those religions from the earth. They're lies. They're for the devil," he says.

Despite the attacks, many worshippers in Brazil say they won't give up their traditions or their beliefs.

Source: TRT World