There were some reports of societal abuses or discrimination based on religious affiliation, belief, or practice; however, prominent societal leaders took positive steps to promote religious freedom.
According to the NGO Jewish Federation, on March 12 a man verbally threatened and physically assaulted a Jewish man walking in the Jardins neighborhood of Sao Paulo.
In February, the Israeli Federation of Rio de Janeiro filed a criminal complaint against a man who used the Nazi salute and exhibited his swastika tattoo for photos during an event held at the Brazilian Israeli Club in Rio de Janeiro in December, 2010. The offender was arrested and released, and the case was still pending trial at year’s end.
Other incidents of anti-Semitism included graffiti, other acts of vandalism, harassment, and threats via telephone and e-mail, as reported by the Secretariat of Human Rights and the NGO Safernet. Safernet also reported that approximately 300 neo-Nazi cells, 90 percent of them in the states of Sao Paulo, Santa Catarina, Parana, and Rio Grande do Sul, operated within the country. Safernet estimated that each cell could consist of up to approximately 40 individuals.
Anti-Semitic websites continued to operate. Small groups of skinheads, neo-Nazis, and white supremacists operated on the political fringes in Parana, Santa Catarina, Rio Grande do Sul, and Sao Paulo states, committing harassment toward Jews and other minority groups. Law enforcement agents continued to monitor these groups. In May a store in Sao Paulo was found selling dolls depicting Nazi figures, but halted sales after complaints by the Jewish Federation.
The Office to Combat Religious Intolerance in the state of Rio de Janeiro received numerous complaints of intolerance; most came from followers of African-based groups, such as Candomble and Umbanda.
On April 25, retired Rio de Janeiro civil police chief Raul Oliveira Dias Alves, arrested in May 2010 for ridiculing the religious garb of a Muslim woman, was sentenced to two years’ community service for violating laws protecting religious freedom.
There was no formal national interfaith movement; however, there were many interfaith efforts throughout the country, such as the Abraham’s Path Initiative, an international interfaith NGO endorsed by the UN. Abraham’s Path sponsored annual “friendship runs” that brought Jews, Christians, and Muslims together in an effort to increase understanding; over 3,000 persons participated in the 2011 run in Sao Paulo.
The Commission to Combat Religious Intolerance in Rio de Janeiro brought together diverse religious and nonreligious groups, including Muslims, Jews, Christians, Spiritualists, and atheists. The commission organized an annual Walk Against Religious Intolerance held in Rio. The walk had more than 180,000 participants in 2011.
The National Commission for Religious Dialogue, created in 1981 by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, continued to bring together Christian and Jewish groups. Sao Paulo’s House of Reconciliation, also created by the Catholic Church in 1981, hosted monthly meetings with the Jewish community as part of the commission’s work. In 2011 the House of Reconciliation began seeking the inclusion of other religions, such as Islam, in its meetings.
Ecumenical movements and organizations such as the National Council of Christian Churches continued to bring together Catholics and Protestants. The Group of Ecumenical Reflection and Interreligious Dialogue also promoted ecumenical dialogue between different church denominations at the national and regional levels.