An annual observance of State Religious Freedom Week in the Brazilian state of São Paulo took on special significance in 2020 due to the global pandemic and lockdown. The São Paulo Legislative Assembly, or ALSEP, hosted a multi-day meeting on “Religious Freedom in the Pandemic.”
Dr. Damaris Moura, a state deputy and member of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Brazil, chaired the event, which featured several national and international experts and religious movement representatives.
Notable participants included representatives of Christian, Islamic, Jewish, Hindu and African religions João Doria, governor of the State of São Paulo, spoke at the event’s opening, praising Moura for her initiative.
“São Paulo is a state that includes the spirit of diversity. In this moment of confronting the pandemic, religious leaders must also speak out, not to stimulate conflict, but to understand that we need peace and [cooperation],” Doria said. State deputy Cauê Macris, president of the São Paulo Legislative Assembly, and Paulo Dimas Mascaretti, São Paulo’s Secretary of Justice and Citizenship, also participated at the opening.
Among religious leaders who participated were Cardinal Odilo Scherer, metropolitan archbishop of São Paulo; Pastor Maurício Lima, leader of the Adventist Church in the State of São Paulo; ialorixá Mãe Carmen de Oxun, founder of several Candomble cultural centers, such as Ilê Olá Omi Asé Opô Aràkà, in São Bernardo do Campo; the Rabbi Gilberto Ventura, founder of the Synagogues Without Borders movement; Sheikh Mohamad Al Bukai, an Islamic theologian and leader of Mesquita Brasil, in the capital of São Paulo; and Rev. Mahesh, of the Hare Krishna Movement.
Pastor Helio Carnassale, religious liberty director for the South American Division of Seventh-day Adventists, and executive secretary of the International Religious Liberty Association (IRLA) said, “It’s a privilege to live in a free country, with the right to belief guaranteed by the [Brazilian] Constitution, but we need to ensure … that these rights will be maintained for our children.”