CESE: interreligious dialogue for a culture of peaceCESE: interreligious dialogue for a culture of peace

“As long as they fail to understand that everyone can follow their own religion, intolerance will only increase.” (Mãe Branca from the Xangô-Terreiro Ilê Asé Obá Babá Séré Candomblé house of worship, in Cajazeiras XI, Salvador (BA). )

“God is not Christian.  Blacks, whites, Christians, atheists, or Muslims.  All are held in a divine embrace.” Desmond Tutu (Anglican Archbishop, South Africa)

The world looks on in horror at growing acts of violence, aggression and murder, supposedly carried out in the name of faith.  Events in Europe, Africa and Asia cause fear and indignation across the world.  While I write this article, newscasters are showing members of the Islamic State furiously destroying statues and images from ancient Assyria.  For them, these are “idols” which should be eliminated; for historians, however, they form the cultural heritage of humanity.  And here, in Brazil, who has not seen news of the Candomblé houses of workshop being invaded and destroyed?  Or of someone kicking a Catholic image right in the middle of a TV programme?

Unlike other countries, Brazil is a country of diverse religions.  The 2010 census reveals that, out of a population of 190.7 million, 64.6% are Roman Catholic; 22.2% are evangelical; 0.3% represent the Afro-Brazilian religions, while other religious are jointly represented by approximately 2.7% of the population.  The diversity in expressions of faith and religious liberty guaranteed by the constitution (Art. 5, item VI) could lead one to believe that we live in a country that respects religious differences.

However, the 2011 Map of Religious Intolerance demonstrates that acts of aggression – from verbal attacks, graffiti vandalising and physical assaults – are practiced against a number of religious groups.  We can confirm the multiplication of exclusive religious assertions, which not only condemn and demonize other expressions of faith, but also incite hatred towards them.  The Dial 100 service of the Secretariat of Human Rights of the Presidency of the Republic shows a growing number of reports – mostly attacks against African-origin religions.  This demonstrates that religious intolerance contains strong traces of the racism that continues to dominate our society.

We have also seen the face of religious intolerance turn against vulnerable groups, such as women and people who are openly homosexual, transvestites or  transsexuals. We have watched the increasing use of politics as an instrument for religious groups who defend political conservative agendas and hold their religion up as a banner against the preservation and expansion of human rights.  Since many of these have their own media outlets, they are able to manipulate public opinion.

In the face of this, the Ecumenical Coordination of Service (Coordenadoria Ecumênica de Serviço: CESE) an organization made up of Christian churches (IECLB, IPU, IEAB, ICAR, IPI and the Alliance of Baptists of Brazil) has sought, alongside other ecumenical organization such as National Council of Christian Churches of Brazil (Conselho Nacional de Igrejas Cristãs do Brasil: CONIC), to promote dialogue and respect between religions.  We have attempted to do this by supporting Weeks of Prayer, through documents and joint public statements, participating in seminars and demonstrations against religious intolerance and for the promotion and defence of human rights.  CESE believes that interreligious dialogue, although still a challenge, is fundamental in current times.  Given that intolerance against African-origin religions contains a racist ingredient, the implementation of policies that value black identity and promote racial equality has become urgent.  Furthermore, Brazil needs to reassert itself as a secular state in order to strengthen our democracy and guarantee the valuing of and respect for religious diversity.

Promoting dialogue, supporting projects that promote ecumenical and interreligious action, hearing those who think differently from us, valuing the plurality and diversity that constitute our country, these are our commitments to a world of peace, in which there is a place for each and every one.

Sônia Gomes Mota
Executive Director, CESE – www.cese.org.br

“As long as they fail to understand that everyone can follow their own religion, intolerance will only increase.” (Mãe Branca from the Xangô-Terreiro Ilê Asé Obá Babá Séré Candomblé house of worship, in Cajazeiras XI, Salvador (BA). )

“God is not Christian.  Blacks, whites, Christians, atheists, or Muslims.  All are held in a divine embrace.” Desmond Tutu (Anglican Archbishop, South Africa)

The world looks on in horror at growing acts of violence, aggression and murder, supposedly carried out in the name of faith.  Events in Europe, Africa and Asia cause fear and indignation across the world.  While I write this article, newscasters are showing members of the Islamic State furiously destroying statues and images from ancient Assyria.  For them, these are “idols” which should be eliminated; for historians, however, they form the cultural heritage of humanity.  And here, in Brazil, who has not seen news of the Candomblé houses of workshop being invaded and destroyed?  Or of someone kicking a Catholic image right in the middle of a TV programme?

Unlike other countries, Brazil is a country of diverse religions.  The 2010 census reveals that, out of a population of 190.7 million, 64.6% are Roman Catholic; 22.2% are evangelical; 0.3% represent the Afro-Brazilian religions, while other religious are jointly represented by approximately 2.7% of the population.  The diversity in expressions of faith and religious liberty guaranteed by the constitution (Art. 5, item VI) could lead one to believe that we live in a country that respects religious differences.

However, the 2011 Map of Religious Intolerance demonstrates that acts of aggression – from verbal attacks, graffiti vandalising and physical assaults – are practiced against a number of religious groups.  We can confirm the multiplication of exclusive religious assertions, which not only condemn and demonize other expressions of faith, but also incite hatred towards them.  The Dial 100 service of the Secretariat of Human Rights of the Presidency of the Republic shows a growing number of reports – mostly attacks against African-origin religions.  This demonstrates that religious intolerance contains strong traces of the racism that continues to dominate our society.

We have also seen the face of religious intolerance turn against vulnerable groups, such as women and people who are openly homosexual, transvestites or  transsexuals. We have watched the increasing use of politics as an instrument for religious groups who defend political conservative agendas and hold their religion up as a banner against the preservation and expansion of human rights.  Since many of these have their own media outlets, they are able to manipulate public opinion.

In the face of this, the Ecumenical Coordination of Service (Coordenadoria Ecumênica de Serviço: CESE) an organization made up of Christian churches (IECLB, IPU, IEAB, ICAR, IPI and the Alliance of Baptists of Brazil) has sought, alongside other ecumenical organization such as National Council of Christian Churches of Brazil (Conselho Nacional de Igrejas Cristãs do Brasil: CONIC), to promote dialogue and respect between religions.  We have attempted to do this by supporting Weeks of Prayer, through documents and joint public statements, participating in seminars and demonstrations against religious intolerance and for the promotion and defence of human rights.  CESE believes that interreligious dialogue, although still a challenge, is fundamental in current times.  Given that intolerance against African-origin religions contains a racist ingredient, the implementation of policies that value black identity and promote racial equality has become urgent.  Furthermore, Brazil needs to reassert itself as a secular state in order to strengthen our democracy and guarantee the valuing of and respect for religious diversity.

Promoting dialogue, supporting projects that promote ecumenical and interreligious action, hearing those who think differently from us, valuing the plurality and diversity that constitute our country, these are our commitments to a world of peace, in which there is a place for each and every one.

Sônia Gomes Mota
Executive Director, CESE – www.cese.org.br

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