It was very disconcerting to read the following on the U.S. Embassy & Consulates in Brazil website:
“BRAZILIAN RELIGIOUS LEADER TO RECEIVE PRIZE FROM THE DEPARTMENT OF STATE HONORING HIS FIGHT FOR RELIGIOUS FREEDOM AND TOLERANCE.
Candomblé priest and founder of the Commission to Combat Religious Intolerance (CCIR) in the state of Rio de Janeiro, Ivanir dos Santos, will receive the International Religious Freedom Award from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in recognition of Dos Santos’ long and courageous battle for religious freedom and tolerance. Dos Santos will receive the prize during the second Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom, taking place in Washington, D.C. July 16-18 (2019). The International Religious Freedom Award, launched this year, pays tribute to people and organizations that work to protect, promote, and strengthen freedom of religion.”
For Ivanir dos Santos—a Candomblé priest and activist, who uses his political powers to take away the rights of Brazilian Christians—to be awarded this prize “for his long and courageous battle for religious freedom and tolerance, is beyond hypocritical.
Mr. dos Santos founded the Commission to Combat Religious Intolerance based on the principle that evangelicals are intolerant of Afro-Brazilian religions such as Candomblé, Umbanda, and Quimbanda. He fought for legislation to deem as hate-speech, racist, and intolerant the testimonies of evangelicals who left the Afro-Brazilian religions. Because of this man’s legal fight for “justice,” Brazilian Christians are banned from sharing these specific testimonies on line by law. My prior blog post illustrates how this law blocked the testimony of Ivone Silva and many other ex-spiritists on YouTube.
Mr. dos Santos uses examples of thugs who call themselves Christians, and who threaten and extort temples of Afro-Brazilian religions, as representatives of evangelicals. Many of these attacks on the temples are by drug traffickers, and it is well documented online.
In November of last year, he rightfully filed a criminal complaint against a Christian church group for religious intolerance. He claims that while Umbanda worshipers gathered for a service at a cemetery, thirty “evangelicals” attacked them, calling them satanic, and demonic.
It is not, under any circumstance, acceptable for any religion to attack another. However, by protecting the rights of the Afro-Brazilian religions, through dos Santos policy initiatives, evangelicals are being silenced in their testimonies, and in turn having their rights stripped away.
It is infuriating to read how this duplicitous, religious activist who is creating intolerance against Christians in Brazil, has received accolades from the American government.
On July 17, 2019, in Washington, D.C., the U.S. Department of State honored the following International Religious Freedom Award Winners:
“Ivanir dos Santos is a priest of the Afro-descendant religion Candomblé in Brazil, a faith that is often a target of discrimination and physical attacks in Brazil. He is the founder of the Commission to Combat Religious Intolerance and the Center for Marginalized Populations, both of which help vulnerable groups. Santos rallies thousands from all religious backgrounds at events such as the Walk in Defense of Religious Freedom in Rio de Janeiro.”
“Mohamed Yosaif Abdalrahan defends Sudan’s religious minorities as a lawyer and activist with the Sudanese Human Rights Initiative. A member of Sudan’s Muslim majority, he advocates stronger legal protections for minority religious communities and helps them navigate the country’s judicial system. ‘My defense of religious freedom in Sudan is the least that I could do,’ he said.”
“William and Pascale Warda of Iraq founded the Hammurabi Human Rights Organization in 2003, a nonprofit, apolitical organization that monitors human rights violations in Iraq. The organization has documented ISIS atrocities against Yazidis, Christians, and other minorities. ‘The solution for our world is charity and love,’ Pascale said. ‘We are called to make a difference.’”
“Salpy Eskidjian Weiderud of Cyprus is an architect of a peace-building initiative in Cyprus called the Religious Track of the Cyprus Peace Process. She has been its executive director since 2012. For almost 30 years, she has worked with faith-based institutions in Europe and the Middle East to promote interfaith understanding.”
“Imam Abubakar Abdullahi of Nigeria risked his life in 2018 when he intervened to save 262 Christians and other individuals. In a mosque and his home next to the mosque, the imam sheltered hundreds fleeing from ethnic Fulani herdsmen who were attacking them. When Nigerian Vice President Yemi Osinbajo commended his actions in May, Abdullahi said, ‘God created mankind differently, but he wants us to live together in peace and harmony, and not harm each other.’ (Abdullahi was unable to attend the awards ceremony.)”
All awardees, with the exception of Mr. dos Santos, promote equality and liberty of all religions. Mr. dos Santos fights only for the rights of the Afro-Brazilian faiths while persecuting Christians by silencing their testimonies of coming out of the Afro-Brazilian practices.
The International Religious Freedom Awards presented by Pompeo took place during the State Department’s Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom summit. “The ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom brings together leaders from around the world to discuss the challenges facing religious freedom, identify means to address religious persecution and discrimination worldwide, and promote greater respect and preservation of religious liberty for all. This event focuses on concrete outcomes that reaffirm international commitments to promote religious freedom and produce real, positive change.”
In an interview with Christianity Today, Pompeo explains why the US is hosting the world’s biggest event on religious persecution by inviting 100 nations and 1,000 participants. Pompeo stated that freedom of religion is America’s first freedom, “and we want to work to make sure other countries understand how central it is to the individuals that are in their country to have the opportunity to worship as one chooses, or choose not to worship.” He added that governments should not “restrict, impose, impede, or punish those activities” as this is “central to human dignity.” Pompeo believes that through the State Department, the U.S. can lead this conversation.
Regarding the persecution of Christians worldwide, Mr. Pompeo said: “We are equal opportunity when it comes to ensuring that religious freedom is protected. The data you described about the risk to the Christian faith in certain parts of the world is real. There is enormous Christian persecution in many parts of the world. As you know, we work diligently to make sure that those individuals, those human beings, have the capacity to practice their faith that they have chosen—in this case, Christianity. But you watch, too, this administration work on behalf of Muslims or the work we do on anti-Semitism. We want every person of every faith to have the capacity to practice their faith or choose not to.” Mr. Pompeo states that he is a Christian evangelical believer, and is grateful to practice his faith personally and freely.
Had the State Department carefully investigated Mr. dos Santos, it would be clear that his religious and political agenda is discriminatory against evangelical Christians. His goal is not to unite but to divide.
Mr. dos Santos’ actions contradict the “Statement of Concern” of the Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom: “As representatives of the international community, we recognize that religious communities of all traditions can be powerful, peaceful forces for good in the world. We call upon all governments to respect the individual’s human right to believe or not believe, to practice any faith tradition or none. We celebrate the good of religion manifested in countless selfless acts of service, compassion, and charity across the globe, and condemn horrific acts committed in the name of religion. We strongly encourage governments to broadly engage with all religious and other communities of conscience, and to encourage the communities we represent to handle any disagreements on matters of ethics, politics, philosophy, and theology through respectful, peaceful, and constructive discourse. Co-Signatories: Ukraine, Italy, Armenia, Estonia, Azerbaijan, Austria, Lithuania, Uzbekistan, Kosovo, Poland, Denmark, Albania, Cyprus, United Kingdom, Lebanon, Slovakia, Latvia, Norway, Moldova, Montenegro, Serbia, Kazakhstan, Brazil, Norway, Czech Republic, New Zealand, Hungary, Marshall Islands, United Arab Emirates, United States of America.”
An article by Religion News Service states: “As religious freedom summit ends, State Department announces new alliance, sanctions. Trump administration officials announced a new alliance with U.S. partners focused on religious freedom and new sanctions against foreign military officials supporting countries the U.S. considers to be instigators of religious persecution. The developments Thursday (July 18) were among the highlights of the last day of the State Department’s Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom. Foreign ministers also took turns stating ways their nations are working to affirm religious liberty. That followed two days of meetings where survivors shared their stories of persecution and some of the almost 900 religious leaders and activists in attendance made plans to foster interfaith understanding.
Before a gathering of representatives of 106 countries, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced plans to create the International Religious Freedom Alliance. ‘We hope that this new vehicle — the first-ever international body devoted to this specific topic – will build on efforts to date and bring like-minded countries together to confront challenges of international religious freedom,’ he said. ‘It will provide a space for the work that we do here to flourish throughout the year.’ Vice President Mike Pence, speaking later in the day, announced that the U.S. had placed sanctions on two leaders of Iranian-backed militias, groups he said have ‘terrorized the people of the Nineveh Plain,’ a region of northern Iraq where religious minorities, including Christians and Yazidis, are persecuted. ‘The United States stands with all victims of religious persecution and the American people have them in our hearts — and in our prayers,’ said Pence.”
T.A. McMahon, president, and executive director of The Berean Call ministry wrote in his book America: The Sorcerer’s New Apprentice: “Americans are rapidly ‘awakening’ to what is being hailed as a paradigm shift in global consciousness.”
Sadly, this summit reflects the ecumenical “New Spirituality” of today. Mr. McMahon brilliantly wrote, “When we compare biblical Christianity with the religions of the world, using the Scripture to guide us, we see that the gap between them is unbridgeable. In fact, one is forced to the conclusion that there are really only two religions in the world: biblical Christianity and all other religions.”
“I am the Lord; that is my name! I will not give my glory to anyone else, nor share my praise” (Isaiah 42:8).
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