"Candomblé practitioners in Bahia" by André Koehne / CC BY-SA 3.0

‘Soldiers of Jesus’: Armed neo-Pentecostals torment Brazil’s religious minorities

Dec 9, 2019

By Terrence McCoy

There was a pounding at the door. Strange, the priest thought: He wasn’t expecting anyone. Marcos Figueiredo hurried to the entrance of his home temple and opened it.

Guns. Three of them. All pointing at him.

The “Soldiers of Jesus” had arrived — three members of a gang of extremist evangelical Christians who’d seized control of the impoverished Parque Paulista neighborhood in Duque de Caxias. First, they erected roadblocks to keep away cops and create a narcotics haven an hour’s drive from Rio de Janeiro. Now they were targeting anyone whose faith didn’t align with their own. That meant demanding the closure of temples that practiced African-influenced religions such as Figueiredo’s Candomblé.

“Nobody wants macumba here,” one of them told Figueiredo, using an ethnic slur, according to testimony he provided to authorities. “You have one week to stop all of this.”

They fired into the air and left, leaving Figueiredo with an impossible choice: his faith — or his life.

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