“It became fashionable to start thinking that there is just one truth, that God serves for only one religion,” said Laura Gallo, a Candomble and Umbanda priestess in Rio de Janeiro. “For the first time, I see our country very divided with regard to religions, and I think that really inflates intolerance.”
There have been efforts to promote interfaith respect. In 2007 da Silva signed into law a national day for combating religious intolerance, in memory of a Candomble priestess who was denounced as a charlatan by a prominent evangelical church’s newspaper. She was then attacked by an evangelical couple who entered her temple and hit her over the head with a Bible, and died of a heart attack not long after.
Government data show there have been more reports of religious intolerance this year.
There has been a particular surge in the digital realm: 2,918 reports of online incidents in the first eight months of 2022, up from 516 in in the same months in 2021, according to the Salvador-based nonprofit SaferNet, which fields complaints via a hotline it runs with the prosecutor-general’s office.
That partly stems from an increase in individual offenses, but much more from such content being widely shared and reaching a far greater audience and therefore garnering more reports, according to SaferNet’s director, Juliana Cunha.
“Debate is polarized, the mood is tense. That leaves people predisposed,” Cunha said. “There’s a trigger. Something reinforces your perception, you pass it along.”
Michelle Bolsonaro avoided the spotlight during most of her husband’s presidency, though there were glimpses of her faith. One video showed her repeating “glory to God,” speaking in tongues and hopping joyfully after the Senate approved his evangelical Supreme Court appointee.
Over the past two months, however, she has stepped forward and become the leading evangelical voice from Bolsonaro’s camp. She has said she prays at Bolsonaro’s chair and that, before his presidency, the palace had been consecrated to demons.
At a March for Jesus last month in Rio, she was front and center pumping up a crowd that buzzed with energy. Belting out gospel songs, she made heart signs and blew kisses.
“We will bring the presence of the Lord Jesus to the government and declare that this nation belongs to the Lord,” she said in her speech that day. “And the doors of hell will not prevail against our family, the Brazilian church or our Brazil.”
That sort of fervent display of faith has resonated with lots of evangelical voters — even in the northeast region, a stronghold of da Silva’s Workers’ Party.