Preachers of hate
Are Brazil’s Pentecostal pastors dictating the agenda on gay rights?
Two men kiss on the lips, intensely but unhurriedly. They step back, smile and part. The people waiting at the nearby bus stop seem indifferent. It is a sunny summer evening on São Paulo’s Avenida Paulista, the rough equivalent of London’s Oxford Street. The Avenida Paulista alsostages one of the world’s biggest Gay Pride parades, which last year drew an estimated 4 million people. As my bus moves on, television screens inside inform passengers that ‘homophobia is a crime’ and a helpline number flashes up on the screen.
Given scenes like this, is there really a problem of homophobia in Brazil? The Bahia Gay Group, which publishes an annual report of murders of gays,lesbians and transvestites, says that in 2010 there were 260 murders of lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transvestites in Brazil, 62 more than in 2009 and an increase of 113% in the last five years. Brazil, it says, is the world champion in this type of hate crime. Does religion play a part in this?
A striking phenomenon of the religious scene in Brazil is the rise of what are called the‘neo-Pentecostal’ churches. On every corner, it seems, there is a chapel. Numerically the largest group is the Assembly of God, whose members account for around 6% of the population. At some distance behind come the Evangelical Baptists (2.25%) and the Christian Congregational Church of Brazil (1.58%). These figures come from a study, The New Map of Religions, published earlier this year by the respectedresearch institute, the Fundação Getúlio Vargas (FGV), based on data from 2009. The FGV lists over 30 Pentecostal churches, and estimates that Pentecostals constitute around 13% of the Brazilian population, approximately 25 million people. According to the FGV, the number of Catholics in Brazil is declining rapidly, and in 2009 the percentage fell to a historic low of 68.43%. Of course, giventhat Brazil has a population of around 191 million, this is still a huge group, some 131 million. Interestingly, Rio de Janeiro, where the Pope will celebrate World Youth Day next year, is the second least Catholic state in Brazil.
But what makes the Pentecostals punch above their weight is their presence in the media, and here two churches are particularly significant, the Universal Church of theKingdom of God and the Assembly of God Victory in Christ. The Universal is the owner of one of Brazil’s major TV stations, TV Record, and claims a presence in over 170 countries, including Britain. Victory in Christ, a breakaway from the Assembly of God, headed by Pastor Silas Malafaia, while it does not have its own TV channel, has a company, Central Gospel, which makes programmes that go outin Brazil on three different channels and, dubbed into English, are transmitted by satellite to 200 countries over the US Protestant networks Daystar and Information Network. Silas Malafaia sees himself as the rising star of Brazilian tele-evangelists, with a slicker, more modern message designed for Brazil’s new middle class and makes effective use of videos on U-tube. He has become notoriousfor his insults to gays, including the out gay MP Jean Wyllys and the leader of Brazil’s Gay and Lesbian Association, Tony Reis. In 2011 he attracted protests from LGBT and human rights groups for his contribution to the debate on gay marriage: ‘Let’s give free rein to everything that happens in society. Let’s legalise anything you can think of. People have sex with dogs – let’s legalisethat, because there are people who like sex with dogs. It’s a life-style – yuk. Will we accept that? Are there people who have sex with corpses? Well, if it’s a life-style – you’re shocked, are you going to discriminate? So let’s legalise everything and where will Brazilian society end up?’
Discussing attempts to pass a national law outlawing homophobic remarks in a long interview with the...
Leer documento completo
Regístrate para leer el documento completo.