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Afro-Brazilian Religions Struggle against Evangelical Hostility

By Dom Phillips

[Snip] This is Candomblé, a Brazilian religion that developed from animist beliefs imported by African slaves. During four hours of singing, drumming and dancing, devotees screamed, grimaced or froze as they were incorporated by these deities, called Orixás. Associated with forces of nature, many are synchronized also with Catholic saints, so slaves could hoodwink their Catholic Portuguese masters and secretly keep worshiping them.

Candomblé survived centuries of slavery, but the quasi-respectability it has gained in recent decades is now under concentrated attack from radical Evangelical Christians, a growing force in Catholic Brazil, who regard it as the devil’s work and its priests and priestesses as little more than neighborhood witches.

Tactics range from propaganda blitzkriegs launched on blogs and YouTube videos to threats, violence and expulsions from drug gangs. Afro-Brazilian religious leaders and sympathizers are fighting back in court. A low-intensity war is being fought for Brazilian souls.

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