Evangelicals in Brazil deny the danger of the coronavirus

Pastor Silas Malafaia, leader of the Assembly of God Victory in Christ, in a sermon broadcast live on social media from his empty church in Rio de Janreiro on March 29. Leo Correa / AP

The scene takes place on March 14. The coronavirus wave is starting to sweep through Brazil. In large cities, local authorities order containment measures and the prohibition of large gatherings. But Silas Malafaia, media chief of the Assembly of God Victory in Christ, one of the largest Evangelical Churches in the country, does not plan to give up his Saturday worship service. Quite the contrary.

From his temple in the Penha district, in the popular north of Rio, the pastor speaks in front of hundreds of the faithful, pressed against each other. “Our church will keep its doors open! The church must remain the last bastion of the people's hope! ", claims Malafaia, calling for assistance to "Not to enter into a mad neurosis" : “We believe that God has control over everything. We believe in the power of prayer. It’s our weapon! "

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Like Malafaia, many Brazilian pastors have shown themselves in recent weeks by their "coronascepticism". On March 15, it was the turn of Edir Macedo, powerful "patron" of the great universal Church of the kingdom of God (1.8 million followers). In a video posted on social networks, the latter calls his flock to "Don't worry about coronavirus": the pandemic is a "Tactical", orchestrated by a surprising alliance between Satan, the media and "Economic interests", to sow the "Terror".

"Faith is a great ally in this grave moment for the nation: we cannot limit it", justified for their part, in a press release, the pious elected members of the evangelical parliamentary lobby (195 deputies, or 38% of the seats in the Lower House), calling on the authorities to keep the temples open and to avoid too strict confinement. “You have to protect groups at risk, but don't be hypocritical: many people have to work to survive, especially the self-employed. Complete containment is impossible ”, confides by phone Marco Feliciano, conservative pastor and deputy of Sao Paulo.

"Entrepreneurial logic"

In a country where a third of the population declares itself evangelical today (compared to 9% in 1991), the pastoral "anticoronavirus" preaches worry local authorities, on the front line in the fight against the pandemic. They have so far remained adamant: in big cities, "mega-churches" that can accommodate up to 10,000 worshipers have had to close their doors. In Rio, Silas Malafaia, dismissed in court, had to reluctantly renounce his public offices.

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