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Afro-Brazilian Religious Groups Organize Under Banner of Religious Freedom

LADB Article ID: 79252
Category/Department: Brazil
Date: 2014-03-21
By: Gregory Scruggs

When Pope Francis visited Brazil for World Youth Day in July 2013, he met with business, cultural, and religious leaders from across the country. Of particular note, he received Ivanir dos Santos, a babalawo, or Afro-Brazilian priest. It was a first-time encounter of major symbolic proportions given the history of animosity between the Catholic Church and syncretic religions like candomblé and umbanda, which blend African and Catholic traditions. "For society, [this encounter] signifies that, regardless of sect, we are all brothers and sisters," says dos Santos. "It was a valuable moment for the entire world and a moment of pride for religions with African roots." This sentiment reflects a recent surge in political activism and advocacy for religious freedom on the part of the Afro-Brazilian religious community, which until recently has largely remained hidden from mainstream society.

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