CESE participates in the 2nd seminar on religious intolerance and the state, office of the public prosecutor,Bahia

The two principal focal points of the 2nd Seminar on Religious Intolerance and the Secular State, held on 26 January at the headquarters of the Office of the State Public Prosecutor in Salvador, were to reflect on the criminalization of non-hegemonic religions and to propose a model of tolerance based on harmony. More than 600 religious leaders, teachers, students, representatives from the public authorities, social movements and organized civil society debated issues such as ‘the importance of the Judiciary in the defence and implementation of the rights of Afro-Brazilian religions’ – the theme of an open lecture given by the lawyer for representatives of Afro-Brazilian religions at the Supreme Court (Supremo Tribunal Federal: STF), Hédio Silva Júnior.

Public Prosecutor Lívia Santana Vaz, Coordinator of the Special Operations Group for the Protection of Human Rights and Combatting Discrimination (Grupo de Atuação Especial de Proteção dos Direitos Humanos e Combate à Discriminação: GEDHDIS), organized the event and mediated the round table that discussed this theme.  She noted that the present day is witness to “a resurgence of manifestations of hate and religious intolerance, above all against Afro-Brazilian religions,” adding that “the State, although secular, cannot remain oblivious to such questions, else it will legitimize this type of violence”.  Lawyer Hédio Silva Júnior emphasized the role of the Office of the Public Prosecutor in this battle, noting that the Bahia Office is the only one in Brazil that has a Prosecutor to confront religious intolerance.  “It is important for the Judiciary to mobilize, so that rights secured in law may be exercised by all religious people,” he declared.

The lawyer, who defends representatives of Afro-Brazilian religions at the STF, emphasized that religious intolerance does not only affect religious minorities. “According to the United Nations, 75% of armed combat in the world today is caused by cultural or religious issues,” stated Hédio Silva Júnior, who also claimed that there is a need to broaden the concept of tolerance.  “There is no relationship between belief, lack of belief and morality.  Tolerance does not mean supporting something different, but living harmoniously with differences; it means changing the narrative of hate and fear to one of acceptance and respect.”

For the Coordinator of the organization Koinonia Presença Ecumênica e Serviço, Ana Gualberto, the paradox lies in overcoming the barriers that hinder co-existence with the different. “We need to use the mass media to transform this culture, so that, when their beliefs are attacked, people mobilize in the judiciary with concrete agendas,” she declared, concluding that “we need to reframe certain cultural concepts”.

Other topics debated during the seminar included ‘Confronting religious intolerance in Brazil today – good practices’, ‘Brazil – Secular State’ and ‘The role of religions in the construction of inter-religious respect’.  The end of the seminar was marked by an ecumenical act.

(Source: Office of the State Public Prosecutor, Bahia)


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