Criola, Conectas and Portal Catarinas release e-book on religious racism

In the publication, more than ten experts defend the use of the term to describe the persistent practice by the Brazilian State and sectors of society

Criola, Conectas and Portal Catarinas, with the support of Synergia, will launch this Thursday, September 21, the e-book “Religious Racism: a look through new lenses at the violations related to the growing tension between religious freedom and freedom of expression”, the result of the cycle of debates held by the institutions in an online format over the course of 2022. In four meetings, different aspects of the topic were addressed with the intention of expanding dialogue with sectors of civil society on the impact of religious racism on the black population, indigenous peoples and other social groups affected by violence and the violation of their rights.

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The meetings provided an opportunity to understand the shortcomings in the political debate and in the human rights approach to religious freedom and religious racism, taking into account the intersection of gender, gender identity, territoriality and other dimensions of oppression. Consisting of 43 pages, the e-book compiles the thoughts of the 14 experts who participated in the debates, as they denounce the State’s failure to comply with various legal frameworks supposedly created to ensure the rights of terreiro religious communities and indigenous communities – including article 5 of the Brazilian Constitution, which deals with freedom of belief. 

The publication defends the use of the term “religious racism” to describe such practices, considering the growing number of attacks and cases of violence directed at terreiro religious communities in the country, such as the case of Mãe Bernadete, the ialorixá priestess and quilombola leader from Bahia who was murdered in her temple on August 17, 2023. 

The term has been used by civil society organizations and leaders of African-based religions to replace the idea of “religious intolerance”, which is considered insufficient to reinforce that this type of crime is, in fact, directed at Africa’s whole cultural heritage and civilizational legacy.

“More than just a semantic change, the use of the expression religious racism instead of religious intolerance is also a political and conceptual exercise in systematizing, interpreting and confronting the crime of religious violence against religions of African origin based on Brazil’s historical singularity and on the understanding that these sacred places are a national cultural heritage,” reads an excerpt from the e-book.

The book covers topics still shrouded by taboos, such as the actions of Child Protective Councils that pursue loss of custody for parents of children and adolescents initiated into these religions. Another issue raised in the book is the process of persecution of indigenous traditions perpetrated by some religious denominations in northern Brazil. This has occurred in the Kaiowá and Guarani indigenous territories, where there have been cases of fires at “prayer houses” and reports of attacks, threats, torture and attempted murder against nhanderu (worshippers). There has also been a case of femicide against nhandesy (female worshippers), who have been called witches and persecuted, according to a report prepared by Kuñangue Aty Guasu (Grand Assembly of Kaiowá and Guarani Women), from 2022. 

As a contemporary and necessary contribution to public debate on the topic, “Religious Racism: a look through new lenses at the violations related to the growing tension between religious freedom and freedom of expression” has appeared at a turning point in Brazilian politics, with reflections that need to be absorbed by anyone involved in the defense of human rights in the country.

The publication features the contributions of Lúcia Xavier (Criola), Rafael Soares (KOINONIA Presença Ecumênica e Serviço), Felipe Brito, (Ocupação Cultural Jeholu), Baba Diba de Iyemonja, (Renafro), Thayná Yaredy (Conectas Human Rights), Ingrid Limeira (child protective councilor and representative of Ocupação Cultural Jeholu), Hédio Silva (Instituto de Defesa das Religiões Afro-Brasileiras), Vera Baroni (Rede das Mulheres de Terreiro de Pernambuco), Edina Shananewa, (União das Mulheres Indígenas da Amazônia Brasileira), Roseli Finscue Chavaco, (Rede Nacional de Mulheres Defensoras de Direitos Humanos), Sergio Albino, (Ile de Bara Lode – Kimbanda Zumbi, in Montevideo, Uruguay), Babá Adailton Moreira de Ogun (Ilê Axé Omiojuarô), Yuri Silva (Coletivo de Entidades Negras) and Ana Gualberto (KOINONIA Presença Ecumênica e Serviço). 

Watch the cycle of debates on Religious Racism

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