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Salvador (BA) in mourning and fighting for half a million lives lost due to Covid-19

  

On the weekend of 19 and 20 June, Brazil officially passed the tragic figure of 500,000 deaths from COVID-19.  Given this terrible landmark, ecumenical and inter-religious organizations, members of the #SilenceforthePain campaign and the #BreatheBrazil collective, ran an activity – “500 candles for Half a Million Lives” in order to affirm human life and pay homage to victims whose lives have been interrupted, many too early, because of government negligence and a lack of public policies.

In Salvador, the activity took place on Sunday (20) in front of the Basilica of Our Lord of Bonfim and was organized by the Bahia Ecumenical Council of Christian Churches  (Conselho Ecumênico Baiano de Igrejas Cristãs: CEBIC), the Ecumenical Coordination of Service (Coordenadoria Ecumênica de Serviço: CESE) and Brazil’s ACT Ecumenical Forum (Fórum Ecumênico ACT Brasil: FEACT).  Partner organizations ensured that social distancing protocols and health recommendations were followed, using PFF2 masks and hand sanitizer to promote the health and safety of those present.

Alongside representatives from the organizing institutions, members of social movements and grassroots organizations, members of the churches, tourists and passers-by participated in the activity – making their complaints, living their grief and offering prayers and positive energy to those who mourn their loved ones.  For Sister Irmã Jacira Queiroz from the Association of Community School Educators (Associação das Educadoras das Escolas Comunitárias: AEEC) it was a moment of communion and compassion.  She lit her candle and described the importance of this symbology during the pandemic: “The act of light, of a candle flame provides illumination and faith. It brings with it the force and energy of solidarity so that other lives are not cut down.”

Several manifestations of faith united by empathy and the pressure of pain were witnessed during the activity.  Solidarity with everyone who has lost a family member or a friend.  A silent act, which not only asked people to express their sympathy, but also to demonstrate their indignation at the lack of pandemic control and its systemic consequences for a society afflicted by the growth of inequalities, racism and violence.

Taciane Campos Rodrigues, a young black member of the Network of Protagonists in Action from Itapagipe (Rede de Protagonistas em Ação de Itapagipe: REPROTAI), held an intervention at the site, posing questions about those guilty for the piles of bodies, mostly black, caused by government neglect and negationism. Highly emotional, Taciane spoke about the loss of people from her community and the aggravation of social issues. “The indignation is great, because these deaths could have been avoided. If the federal government had been more responsible, this genocide would not have happened. Not to mention the people who are dying of hunger,” she concluded.

With an average 2 thousand deaths per day, Brazil ranks global second for the total number of deaths from the coronavirus, behind only the United States.  For Sônia Dias Ribeiro, World Vision Educator, this situation is alarming and has physical and psychological consequences.  “Symbolically, Sunday is the day families come together.  And today, this is no longer possible. 500,000 people have died, meaning that 500,000 Brazilian families are grieving and no longer complete.  Because of government omissions, life will no longer have the same meaning.  And this activity has enabled us to stand in solidary and ask for strength for those who are left behind.  It is very important that we mark this as our mourning and our fight,” she declared.

The activity “500 candles for Half a Million lives” was held in different state capitals, as well as in towns around the country, bringing together thousands of people from all of Brazil’s regions.

 

Watch the coverage of the activity here with testimonials (in Portuguese):