There were reports of societal discrimination based on religious affiliation, belief, or practice.
In September Rio de Janeiro media reported that drug traffickers were persecuting adherents of Candomble and other Afro-Brazilian religions in impoverished Rio communities. The media reported that drug traffickers had forced Candomble areas to close, expelled at least 40 Candomble leaders from the communities, and forbid residents to wear white clothing or display other outward signs of being a Candomble practitioner.
According to media reports, some students who practiced Candomble and other Afro-Brazilian religions in schools were discriminated against by teachers or other students, including being told to repeat prayers or face expulsion and forced by school authorities to attend Catholic or evangelical classes.
Authorities arrested seven persons in May in Rio for targeting minority groups and espousing anti-Semitic sentiments. Six of those arrested were indicted and were awaiting trial at year’s end, and the seventh was a minor remanded to shelter and later released. There were reports of additional anti-Semitic groups in the State of Rio de Janeiro.
The media reported in June that a federal civil court in Sao Paulo found the Bandeirantes TV network guilty of discrimination against atheists when a show host and guest stated that the killing of a child could only have been done by atheists. Bandeirantes was required to issue a public apology and inform viewers about religious diversity and freedom of religion. Daniel Sottomaior, president of the Brazilian Association of Atheists and Agnostics, publicly stated that atheists continue to face prejudice and discrimination and that he had received anonymous death threats.
There were many efforts to promote interfaith dialogue, such as the Abraham’s Path Initiative, an international NGO. Abraham’s Path sponsored annual “friendship runs” that brought Jews, Christians, and Muslims together to increase interfaith understanding; more than 5,000 persons participated in Sao Paulo.
The Commission to Combat Religious Intolerance in Rio de Janeiro, in partnership with Rio de Janeiro State University, brought together diverse religious and nonreligious groups, including Muslims, Jews, Christians, Buddhists, spiritualists, and atheists. On September 8, the commission organized the 6th Annual Walk for the Defense of Religious Freedom held in Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro. At the event, which approximately 2,000 attended, various leaders spoke about the importance of religious freedom.
The Catholic Church’s Sao Paulo’s House of Reconciliation hosted monthly meetings with the Jewish community as part of the commission’s work to emphasize unity and reconciliation of differences among various Christian and Jewish religious groups.