More than 2,000 people braved pelting rain in Sao Paulo on Saturday to stage a protest against what they described as persecution of Afro-Brazilian religious groups.
The “March of Axe” (life force in the Afro-Brazilian religion Candomble) in the city’s Ibirapuera Park was also joined by some gay groups and NGOs fighting against racism and bigotry.
The marchers representing major Afro-Brazilian faiths such as Candomble and Umbanda from around the country demanded “freedom of expression and of religion,” as well as an end to injustice, intolerance and racism.
Candomble, introduced in Brazil in the 16th century by west African slaves, also incorporates Roman Catholic elements.
Umbanda, founded a little more than a century ago, blends African religious beliefs, the spirituality of Brazil’s indigenous people and spiritism, a doctrine based on the teachings of 19th century French spiritualist Allan Kardec.
Jorge Scritori, one of the march organizers, said the protesters were denouncing intolerance and violence directed at followers of Afro-Brazilian religions.
“We want inclusion and acceptance ... It is the duty of all to show religious tolerance,” he added.
Followers of Candomble and Umbanda have held annual marches against religious intolerance since 2008, after several places of Afro-Brazilian worship were sacked and their leaders attacked.
Some of them accuse Christian evangelicals, including Candomble defectors, of outright hostility toward Afro-Brazilian faiths.
Candomble and Umbanda followers also complain about what they view as racist misconceptions that associate their beliefs with witchcraft.