Nearly a thousand people took part in the 7th Walk for Religious Freedom along Copacabana Beach on Sunday, September 21. In spite of the rain, demonstrators, most of whom wearing black, held up posters and banners with messages against religious intolerance.
The protest gathered followers of all religions practiced in Brazil. In the view of Ideli Salvatti, Minister at the Human Rights Secretariat of the Presidency, the walk was a symbol of “the culture of peace, respect, and mutual acceptance.” She believes that religious tolerance should be enforced in schools and supported throughout the country.
“Apart from the National Committee for Religious Diversity, which has been in operation since the beginning of the year, it is important that all Brazilian states have their own committees, because several situations involve the structure of state governments,” he noted.
Helio Loureiro, member of Rio’s Spiritualist Council, mentioned that “the union of several religions promotes respect.” He regretted to admit there are still cases of religious intolerance, like that of a boy who said he was a victim of bullying for believing in spiritualism.
Candomblé spiritual leader Ivanir dos Santos, said that Brazil has always been intolerant towards African-Brazilian religions. He claims he has been the victim of two death threats because of his beliefs.
He went on to mention examples of discrimination in public schools, like the Jewish young man who was disrespected for refusing to say a prayer, and the boy who was not let in his school wearing traditional Candomblé necklaces.
In the view of Jaime Salomão, president of the Israeli Federation of Rio de Janeiro, religious intolerance has increased worldwide due to fanaticism in some religions.
“We’re witnessing lack of tolerance in and out of Brazil. That’s why we must stick together; through dialogue and integration we can make progress,” he declared.
Amid the atmosphere of insecurity brought about by a series of attacks against buses and private vehicles in the metropolitan region of the state capital São Luís, Maranhão Governor Roseana Sarney appealed to the Ministry of Justice for help in an attempt to strengthen the work of the National Public Security Force in the city.
The request is pending approval at the ministry. If granted, a new contingent should be sent to the state, where the National Force has already been working at the Pedrinhas Prison Complex, notorious for the number of violent riots staged by its inmates. Fatalities during such incidents have totaled 14 in 2014 alone.
Last weekend, five buses and a microbus were set ablaze in the metropolitan region of São Luís. The disturbance continued on Monday (22), when three other buses and eight cars were torched in São Luís.
In a statement, the Secretariat for Public Security of Maranhão announced that investigations are still being carried out over the attacks and that “all measures have been taken in order to ensure the security of the population.”
The command which possibly initiated the attacks is suspected to have come from Pedrinhas, Maranhão’s largest penitentiary.
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