Thursday, December 20, 2007

On Rio’s mean streets, a rare credibility

On Rio’s mean streets, a rare credibility

Pentecostals’ message of transformation is helping Brazil's drug dealers give up their guns for Jesus.

By Sara Miller Llana | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor from the December 18, 2007 edition

Rio de Janeiro — He felt weak physically. But spiritually, he had never felt stronger. Alexandre dos Santos, a converted Pentecostal, fasted for two days in the favela, or slum, where he grew up, before getting on his knees to lead 18 others in prayer.

"God protect us," they chanted, before going to persuade a gang of drug traffickers in a violent struggle with the police to put down their arms and accept Jesus.

The group, named "Fishermen of the Night," had no idea what to expect that evening two years ago, Mr. dos Santos recalls. Since then, they have seen men killed. They have been threatened with death. But God has sent them as emissaries, they say, to stop the violence that is suffocating many of Brazil's poor communities.

"You cannot shake. You must demonstrate courage," says dos Santos.

"You cannot stutter," adds his wife Christiane in their modest home in Mangueira, a favela that winds up the side of a hill, where homes seem like blocks stacked upon one another. "You say, 'I am from Jesus.' There is no room for doubt."

The group's core purpose is not to fight crime, but to convert as many as possible. More law and order is often a byproduct.

In Rio's favelas,crowded with men and women on the margins, they find fertile ground. To outsiders they are called "the Evangelicals," and for the most part, people here don't challenge their missionary work.

In fact, Pentecostals – for theological, cultural, and personal reasons – have apparently won the respect of the same criminals who may think little of shooting a lifelong neighbor.

So in a city that is considered one of the most dangerous in the world, which registers 6,000 murders a year, and where the police and military are distrusted at best, Pentecostals are among the few who are facing up to organized crime.

"They are viewed as staying out of all the conflict that exists in the world. They live separate from the world, not inside the factions that are everywhere else," says Patricia Birman, an anthropologist at the State University of Rio De Janeiro. "They can intervene because of that."

In absolute numbers, Brazil, the region's biggest country, has more Pentecostals than anywhere else in Latin America. Over 10 percent of the population identified itself as Pentecostal in Brazil's 2000 census, double the figures from a decade earlier. According to a 2006, 10-country survey of Pentecostals by the Pew Research Center, a non-partisan think tank in Washington, nearly 21 percent of urban residents surveyed identified themselves as Protestant, the majority Pentecostal.

It takes only a trek into a favela on a Sunday night to understand the traction of the movement.

In the dark, winding alleys of the Mangueira favela, joyous music pours from Pentecostal churches, most of them drab cement structures on the outside but full of dance and song within.

To get to dos Santos's church, Assembly of God New Zion, visitors pass young teens with guns guarding homes and a local drug den where a pile of white cocaine powder sits on a table in full view. Before the church was founded seven years ago, it was an abandoned building.

One reason Pentecostals can approach drug traffickers is that so many of them were once violent felons themselves. Some have committed murder. Their pastors have served time. And, reborn, they now believe their calling is to bring the word of God to the same streets they once terrorized.

Dos Santos converted to Pentecostalism after more than 15 years dealing drugs and robbing passengers at knife-point on city buses. His pastor, Marcos Lourenço, served time for drug trafficking. Pastor Lourenço points to the man sitting to his left. "He just got out of jail; his wife is still there," he says. He rests his hand on the man to his right. "This used to be my No. 1 enemy."

On a recent night, Lourenço works his tiny congregation into a frenzy of "glorias" and "amens." Men and women squeeze their eyes shut as Lourenço, a squat man with a baby face, breaks into a sweat. They all dance to drums, a keyboard, and a tambourine, played by a group of teens. They are off-key, but no one seems to care or notice. "Oh gloria, gloria, gloria," shouts one young woman, clutching her chest.

"How can people change so much? I ask myself that all the time," muses Lourenço.

Many of today's Pentecostals were brought into the faith by other Pentecostals. But new converts also come on their own to the doors of churches or the homes of pastors. For those in gangs, who conclude that their only way out is death or jail, conversion offers a third option, says David Smilde who studies the phenomenon in Caracas, Venezuela, and is the author of "Reason to Believe," published this past summer.

"It's a way of stepping out of an impossible situation; they are no longer feared by the [criminal] network," says Mr. Smilde, a sociologist at the University of Georgia. Where there is little police presence or institutional support, he says, "Pentecostalism is one way out."

"The only path to live in peace is this path," agrees Thiago de Castro Cosia, a young convert from New Zion. "It's the only way to make your enemies your friends. It's the only way to be free."

It is a drastic mind shift, but it is supported by theology. Because many Pentecostals consider themselves "reborn," they are able to step away from their past sins, and reemerge with a new identity. They believe the devil's hand is behind urban violence and drugs, and often turn to exorcism to root out evil.

The Roman Catholic Church, on the other hand, says Ms. Birman, focuses on the larger idea of civic consciousness, such as drawing attention to the root causes of violence. But for people faced with crime every day, the response is often seen as institutional or out of touch.

Academics who study this phenomenon say that Pentecostals are able to penetrate areas where even census workers won't go, not just because they hail from the same tough neighborhoods, but because most churches are independent, grass-roots efforts – unlike the Catholic Church, which is run under strict hierarchy that starts at the Vatican.

"It works precisely because it is informal," says Clara Mafra, an anthropologist at the State University of Rio de Janeiro. "They don't have to ask someone's permission. The Holy Spirit talks to them."

Pastors are largely autonomous, so an idea that comes to them in the middle of the night can be implemented the next day. It is a format that lends itself to a more local, and often more innovative, response.

"The Catholic Church is slow. They repeat the same model in different areas of the city, if you have a lot of violence or not," says Ms. Mafra. "The Pentecostals, they try different solutions and different arrangements."

Gang members leave Pentecostals alone because, although they don't necessarily practice any religious doctrine, they still overwhelmingly believe in God, say researchers. Catholicism has traditionally reflected the political elite here, who are seen as having done little to combat crime. Pentecostals are seen by the community as operating in a separate, uncorrupted sphere, says Birman.

If converting is a strategic way out for many young men, some question how deep and lasting their faith is. For every convert there is another who is leaving the religion, as backsliding is rampant. But Smilde says many do end up as long-term believers. Their entire sense of self and purpose changes, he says, whether they've converted to leave a gang, because their wives made them, or simply because they were drawn to God.

On a recent evening, a group of young men from the New Zion church sits in a circle sharing testimonials, the stories of their conversion. They are dressed in tennis shoes and running pants, not unlike the men outside carrying guns and dealing drugs.

They say the nerve they had as gangsters came from the devil. "I feel more courageous now; more like a man," says Hugo Leonardo da Silva, a 22-year-old with a young wife and daughter.

His path to Pentecostalism was not easy.

He tried to convert many times but says he lacked strength. Even now, he says the easy money and temptation of gang life is around him every day.

He deals with it by staying away, he says, "unless it is to spread the word of God."

That is where the two worlds converge for "Fishermen of the Night."

"Who are you?" barked a gang member, seeing dos Santos's group approaching them in the middle of the night, right at the spot where they used to carry out their briskest drug sales. Dos Santos stood in the front, and was pushed to the ground with the butt of a rifle.

"We come with the word of God," dos Santos said, suddenly surrounded by 40 men from the Red Command, one of the fiercest factions operating in Rio de Janeiro. The Pentecostals prayed, trancelike, as they called out for God to reach the gang. dos Santos says he doesn't remember what he was saying, or what was happening around him. He kept repeating, "You are not alone, you are with Jesus." Someone suggested they were spies for the police or a rival drug gang.

Dos Santos says he can stay calm in such situations because he carries the shield of God, but certainly his personal experience in a gang helps him.

He began using drugs at age 8, and quickly climbed the ranks of one of the local gangs. He and Christiane married when he was 16, she was 13. It wasn't until his life was threatened – by his own gang – that he converted.

He walks the same streets today, but now with a Bible in his hand. On a recent day he walked past the drug den he once protected. Nearby is an apartment that he rents out to tenants today. He and his wife, who have three young children, also own a popular hamburger joint at the edge of Mangueira. He still lives carefully – refusing to talk about the violence in his neighborhood while in public, even though he says he always walks with faith in God.

He doesn't know how long after he was shoved to the ground that the group's leader walked onto the scene, and held out his hand to dos Santos. "You aren't spies; if you were I'd kill you all. You are believers for real, you are welcome here any time," he said to him.

"One day I was in the same place," dos Santos explains later, when asked why he puts himself at such risk. "God got me out of this place."

That night they preached to the Lord. But not every intervention helps people put the thug life behind them. That gang leader was killed a couple of months later.

Few situations are as dangerous for the "Fishermen of the Night" as that night two years ago, but it's never easy. They say they intervene when God tells them to, which could be several times one month, none the next.

But are they having a lasting impact? John Burdick, an associate professor of anthropology at Syracuse University, says that pastors will take credit for reducing crime in their neighborhoods, but he says that no academic has been able to clearly show that this is an effective tool in the long run.

Still, few doubt that on a small scale they are making a difference.

Their mission is to convert as many Brazilians as possible, and the poor and disadvantaged are their perfect targets. Favelas, where many potential converts live, have traditionally fallen off the political radar, says Jurema Batista, the president of a government-run agency child and adolescent rights. In that sense Pentecostals are doing a job that the government is not. "They are filling a role that no one else is."

"They regard themselves as engaged constantly, as getting [nonbelievers] out of the drug trade, alcoholism, aggressive behavior, and all the things that lead to fights and violence," adds Professor Burdick. "And as they do convert, their behavior does change. They stop being involved in a whole array of things that generate violence, directly or indirectly."

They also offer hope to people who thought there was none left.

Dos Santos, who drives around in a 1991 brown Ford station wagon with a bumper sticker that reads "Exclusive Property of Jesus," says he often has little idea whether the criminals they preach to end up converting.

Probably most don't, he admits. But the work of the "Fishermen of the Night" has spread around town. And one letter he received gives him all the proof he needs to forge ahead.

It was a couple of years ago, on a Friday night. A gang member called his home, telling dos Santos that he felt he was going to get shot dead soon unless he quit. He asked dos Santos for help.

This time dos Santos had no time to fast, which the group usually does for two days to purify body and soul before setting out on an intervention.

He gathered as many people as he could. They arrived at 1:30 a.m., while the gang was still eating dinner near the spot where the drugs were sold. En route, Christiane, dos Santos's wife, says she had a vision of the gang member being buried.

When they arrived at the scene, she told the gang member about her vision, and he began to weep. They prayed for him for hours, and left him a Bible. He handed them his rifle.

Two months later, dos Santos received another call from the man. But this time it was to invite dos Santos to a new church.

The gang member had become a pastor. That was two years ago. "I still get goose bumps," dos Santos says, the flesh rising on his arms.

Source: The Christian Science Monitor

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Socialist Gays Seek Punishments for Brazilian Christian Congressman

Socialist Gays Seek Punishments for Brazilian Christian Congressman

Guest article by Julio Severo

A radical homosexual group inside the Brazilian Workers' Party is requesting disciplinary action against Brazilian House Representative Henrique Afonso, a party member. According to the Setorial Nacional GLBT (a group of gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transvestites and transsexuals within the Worker's Party), Rep. Afonso, who is an evangelical, has allegedly been “offensive” to homosexuals, because he “has linked homosexuality to the destruction of the family environment”.

Afonso respects individuals living in homosexuality, but he believes that their behavior is immoral and opposed to God's sexual plan for the human beings.

So homosexual activists from the Workers’ Party are requesting the party’s National Secretariat for Popular Movements take measures against Henrique Afonso. It believes that he has violated party statutes because he is opposed to abortion and homosexual behavior.

Gay and feminist militants within the party are offended because Afonso has been demonstrating firm biblical conviction on the subject of abortion and homosexuality. They complain that the evangelical congressman signed an official paper on March 2, 2007 that outlines the decisive factors contributing to the destruction of the family environment, and the challenges that should be confronted (for instance, abortion, homosexuality, child prostitution, drugs, high divorce rates, social exclusion, media influence), aiming at the recovery of the true role that the family has in the construction of a just, compassionate, and fraternal society.

Rep. Afonso is the founder of the National Evangelical Campaign in Defense of Life and Family[1], officially launched in the Brazilian Congress on September 18, which had the participation of several evangelical leaders. The purpose of the effort is to discuss infanticide, abortion, homosexuality, pedophilia, as well as to discuss those who are persecuted for attacking these problems. They are individuals such as Márcia Suzuki, the renowned Brazilian philosopher Olavo of Carvalho, the Rev. Ademir Kreutzfeld, Cardinal Dom Eugênio Sales, Rep. Henrique Afonso, Fr. Luiz Carlos Lodi of Cruz, Dr. Humberto L. Vieira, Dr. Rozangela Justino, Rev. Silas Malafaia and Julio Severo.

In the past, Alfonso was a radical communist militant, but he is now increasingly a militant for Christ, despite his membership in the Worker's Party. The Workers’ Party is the socialist party of President Lula, a friend of Fidel Castro and Hugo Chávez, and it openly promotes pro-abortion and pro-homosexuality policies.

Under Lula and the Workers’ Party, sodomy has been endorsed though aggressive public policies, especially the pro-homosexual propaganda campaign “Brazil Without Homophobia”, and has been introduced in three successive pioneer resolutions in the United Nations, where the Brazilian diplomatic delegation defended homosexuality as an unalienable “human right”.

Congressman Henrique Afonso had a strong experience with the Holy Spirit some months ago, and now he is firmly opposing the homosexual and abortion bills and agenda of his own party. He is taking his National Evangelical Campaign in Defense of Life and Family to every Brazilian state to make Christian and concerned citizens conscious about the perils of pro-abortion and pro-homosexuality bills and laws.

Currently, he runs the risk of being expelled from PT and losing his congressional seat.


See previous LifeSiteNews report on Julio Severo:

Interview with Brazil's “most discriminated against and persecuted” Pro-Life Activist
Julio Severo reveals details of lengthy struggle against attempts of UN and US organizations to corrupt Brazil society


Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Leftist government tries to stir up racial hate in Brazil

Leftist government tries to stir up racial hate in Brazil

Olavo de Carvalho

Matilde Ribeiro, Brazil’s Special Secretary for the Promotion of Racial Equality Policies, will be speaking on “Combating racism and discrimination: A Policy of Inclusion”, today, Tuesday, December 4, 2007, at the Simon Bolivar Room of the Organization of American States in Washington D. C.

Last March, in an interview to the BBC (, she explained the very special kind of anti-racism she defends: it consists of nothing else than overt and continuous anti-white hate, legitimized by a slavery history that ended more than a century ago.

As most Brazilian families (including mine) come from mixed race marriages, Ms. Ribeiro’s preaching tries to stir up hate among people who would prefer to love one another.

But her scandalous doctrine, promoting the hostility of mulatto children against their white fathers or mothers, is not an original product of her empty head. It is the passive echo of a long and very active cultural tradition. Since Stalin ordered the communist movement to exploit all possible racial conflicts, conferring upon them a sense of class warfare, perhaps nobody has obeyed that instruction in a swifter, more faithful and constant way than Brazilian “social scientists”.

Practically all our university production in this domain consists in a long and noisy effort to instill in blacks and mulattos a retroactive hatred directed not only against the slave masters and the descendants of slave masters, but against the white population in general, including those who fought for the liberation of slaves, those who married black persons, those who never said a single word against the black race nor did it any harm. According to the doctrine of our academic establishment, all these whites are unconscious racists, virtually as dangerous as Joseph Goebbels or the Ku-Klux-Klan. Even the blacks are a little racist against themselves. Truly innocent of the crime of racism are only the distinguished authors of these studies and the militants of organizations inspired by them. In other words: you either are one of the accusers or one of the culprits. There is no third possibility.

An incessant flux of Master and PhD theses, largely subsidized by the government and by billionaire international foundations, pours out from our universities in order to lend credibility to that lovely doctrine. It is founded upon the following eight methodological precepts.

1. Attribute to racial discrimination the difference in economic standing between blacks and whites, omitting the fact that, between the abolition of slavery and the beginning of industrialization in Brazil, more than 40 years went by, during which time the freed black population reproduced itself at a rate incomparably higher than the number of jobs available.

2. Portray black people as the main victims of violent crimes, without asking if they are not also predominantly the perpetrators of these crimes. Every murderer, white or black, is thereby considered a priori as an instrument of white violence against blacks.

3. In the same way, explain all police violence against blacks as a consequence of white racism, without considering whether the police officers who committed the violence were black or white.

4. Depict Europeans always as enslavers and blacks as enslaved, systematically omitting the fact that Muslim troops, filled with blacks, invaded Europe and enslaved millions of whites eight centuries before the arrival of Europeans in Africa.

5. Explain, therefore, internal slavery in Africa as a mere byproduct of European slavery, thus inverting the order of historic time .

6. Transform every race into a juridical person, a holder of rights, when black, and of penal responsibility, when white.

7. Take it as implicit that every white person is guilty of the acts of slave masters, even if he has not a single slave master in his ancestry and even if he has come to Brazil as an immigrant decades after the end of slavery.

8. Blame it all on the “Judeo-Christian civilization”, exactly the only one, throughout human history, to have done something in favor of enslaved races.

The word “bias” is too delicate and subtle to qualify the mental attitude that generates these studies. The sociology of races produced in Brazilian universities is pure propaganda material, deliberately misleading and calculated to legitimize the revolutionary violence against what former Sao Paulo (white) governor Claudio Lembo called the “white, cruel and selfish elite”. Social science in Brazil is a kind of organized crime .

Olavo de Carvalho, 60, is a Brazilian writer, philosopher, journalist and former university teacher presently living in the U.S. as a correspondent for Brazilian newspapers.


Monday, December 03, 2007

Brazilian President Convokes National Homosexual Conference

Brazilian President Convokes National Homosexual Conference

By Matthew Cullinan Hoffman

BRASILIA, December 3, 2007 ( — The First National Conference of Gays, Lesbians, Bisexuals, Transvestites and Transsexuals received its official convocation on Thursday of last week by none other than the socialist president of Brazil, Luiz Lula, a first in the history of the country.

The president decreed that the conference would take place
May 8-11, 2008, “under the auspices of the Special Secretary of Human Rights of the Presidency of the Republic, with the objectives of 1. proposing the directives for the implementation of public policies and the national plan for promoting the citizenship and human rights of Gays, Bisexuals, Transvestites and Transsexuals — GBLT, and 2. evaluate and propose strategies to strengthen the program Brazil Without Homophobia.”

Brazil Without Homophobia is a national program run by the Lula administration that teaches that homosexual orientation is unchangeable, and seeks to construct a “culture” in
Brazil that is “affirming” towards homosexuality.

With official government sponsorship, the conference will have a composition of 40% delegates from the government sector and the remaining 60% from among private individuals, according to MixBrasil, a homosexual website.

Organizer Julian Rodrigues is jubilant. “There are countries with more advanced legislation and policies, but this will be the first time that a federal government convokes a complete conference, with the participation of the majority of the organized movement, to define a national plan of public policies for almost 10% of the population, historically relegated to prejudice and discrimination,” he said.

Rodrigues’ statistic of 10% for the population of homosexuals is denied by scientific studies that show that homosexuals comprise between 3 and 5% of national populations at the most, but it is commonly cited by homosexual activists in the promotion of their cause.

“The first Conference is now created, and there is no turning back. We are going to pull up our sleeves and construct it in all of the states (of Brazil), mobilizing the greatest number possible of members of our community, discussing rights and affirmative public policies,” said Rodrigues.

Related LifeSiteNews Coverage:

Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay Launch Radical Homosexual Rights Initiative at UN

Leader of Brazil Homosexual Movement Under Investigation for Pedophilia

Brazilian Priests Could Face Jail-time for Saying that Homosexuality is A Sin

Brazil-Backed Treaty Seeks to Make Homosexual Sex a 'Human Right' in North and South America

Source: LifeSiteNews