By Marcus Vinicius de Azevedo Braga

We need to talk about religious intolerance

A young teenager at school is a victim of bullying, as his friends learn that he and his family profess an African religion. Spiritualist temple is vandalized in the dead of night, set on fire, and destroyed. Ecumenical television events with the presence of spiritists omits mediumship as one of the pillars of the doctrine. Protest against religious intolerance goes unnoticed in the spiritist press. Spiritist books shop at the city's bus station is persecuted by excessive municipal inspections due to religious intolerance.

We, spiritists, when we become aware of some of these facts narrated in the paragraph above, look to the side, as if this problem were not ours, based on the idea that Spiritism is a religion with a Christian matrix and places itself alongside hegemonic groups, above any persecution or intolerance.

We forget that freedom of worship and respect for religious manifestations is a principle of plurality, of good social coexistence, and that the hostility towards different beliefs is an offense to the principle of charity, causing suffering to others, in a way that is completely contrary to what we preach in Spiritism.

We think we are part of the hegemonic group, and we hide the traits related to mediumship and reincarnation, in the search to be more accepted, as many remember, deep down, near half a century ago when we were the object of blatant persecution. After all, we have been considered crime in the penal code. And to escape our oppression, sometimes we position ourselves as oppressors.

We still believe that there is a right religion compared to other wrong ones, and that the others must be fought. A thought that is completely foreign to spiritist ideals, and literature, which shows spirits acting where there is good, and that religion, whatever it may be, is an instrument to support evolution, even though so much evil is seen done in the name of God.

The topic of religious intolerance should feature prominently on the agenda of the spiritist movement. Be the subject of debates and studies. The most curious thing about this issue is that sometimes a stance of intolerance is defended based on the idea of doctrinal purity, contrasted with a silence in relation to the import of models and practices that are completely foreign to spiritist foundations, but accepted only because they come from Christian-based religions.

There is also the denial of the problem, in the affirmation that our country is plural, and that this religious intolerance is fanciful. This thesis is out of touch with the facts. The II Report on Religious Intolerance: Brazil, Latin America and the Caribbean, publication organized by the Center for Articulation of Marginalized Populations and the Observation of Religious Freedoms, with support from the Representation of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in Brazil LINK-1 - indicates an impressive increase in cases.

Data from the portal Dial 100, from the then Ministry of Women, Family and Human Rights, indicate the occurrence of 477 cases of religious intolerance in 2019, 353 cases in 2020 and 966 cases in 2021, considering that the pandemic phenomenon of Covid-19 may have affected the fall in 2020. Data from 2022 indicate an upward trend in cases – check it out by clicking on this LINK-2 – and, as you can imagine, religions of African origin are always among the most affected.

Actors in society, including religious denominations, have positioned themselves to promote religious tolerance, and yes, there are spiritualists officially and unofficially involved in these struggles, but it is also clear that despite the efforts of some, including the Brazilian Spiritist Federation (FEB), this theme, so to speak, is not highlighted on the movement's agenda, which is materialized through the texts, speeches, and production.

And no, this is not a political topic. If it is, it is no more than other themes that have a political impact and that are embraced effusively by the spiritist movement. This is a theme of human coexistence, fraternity, and dialogue. Topics dear to us, and intolerance is something concrete, which manifests itself in micro relationships, housed in minds and attitudes.

We continue to believe that this is a problem of other denominations, that we are anointed and that we are outside of this persecution, forgotten in the past, the present that we have not detected and our duty to understand the different expressions of dealing with the issue of spirituality, as social phenomena, historical and human.

Society continues to move, and January 21st is the National Day to Combat Religious Intolerance (Brazil), established by Federal Law No. 11,635, of 2007, and in January 2023, Law No. 14,532, of 11 January 2023, which equates racial insult to racism and creates the crime of collective racial insult, in addition to providing new penalties for cases of racism in religions, sporting activities and recreation. Valuable initiatives, but our point here is more internal, the invisibility of this debate in the spiritist house.

And how can we reverse this, without descending into a politicized and polarized debate? Well, January 21st is a good opportunity to build an agenda for debates, whether on the platform or in written text, promoting reflection on the extent to which we can attack this issue within ourselves, building an environment of tolerance of religions from each one of us.

We have concrete cases where this intolerance manifests itself in the spiritist center. Just to give an example: how do we react when a spirit manifests itself in a mediumistic meeting using expressions typical of the African matrix? When in fraternal care a person reveals that they have come from a spiritualist home, how do we behave? If the colleague says at the spiritist center that he only goes there because he likes the studies, but in the mediumistic part, he goes to another denomination, what do we respond?

It is not an absorption of Spiritism by other practices, but a charitable understanding that syncretism permeates religious practice in the country, and that if the person went to the spiritist house, they are looking for something, and that demands respectful treatment and kindness towards other’s beliefs.

This, obviously, is very different from the grafting of different contents to Kardecian logic in texts, lectures, and books. But even these questions must be the subject of fraternal analysis, avoiding truculent censure, in a good dialogue that promotes reflection on what Spiritism is or is not, and what factors lead to one understanding and not another. Reasoned faith is built through dialogue and arguments and not through leaflets on prohibited topics.

The spiritist center can also, in the winds of January 21st, work not only on intramural intolerance, but also on everyday conduct, in the face of a co-worker who espouses ideas different from yours, in situations of discrimination in the school environment and even, in the family, especially with the formation of couples where the one who arrives has a different religion.

The exercise of tolerance is a manifestation of charity, and even if we do not agree with the vision of the other's transcendence, this does not imply that they are our enemy, the source of evil, or something to be fought against. As the adage that I heard a lot in my spiritist youth goes, the boss is the same, just the ticket window changes. And many appear pompous at certain ticket windows, but in practice they serve other bosses.

When we arrive in the country of light, the credential that will be asked of us is that of spiritual evolution, and this can happen in any culture and in any religious denomination, always remembering another slogan dear to Spiritism, that much will be given to those whom much will be asked. There is no guarantee of evolution for adhering to belief A or B. They are just instruments of evolution.

In fact, it is always worth remembering that by being intolerant, using violence when dealing with other denominations, we are bringing into the Spiritist practice views that are foreign to its essence, which is a form of distortion of Spiritism, contradictory because we claim intolerance for doctrinal purity, collaborating with this in practice.

It is important that this topic, which should not be dry, appears on our agenda. It is nothing strange to us, whether inside or outside the spiritist house, and in the insertion of Spiritism in society. Dialogue between religions can be an object of synergy, maintaining the identity of each belief and its assumptions. The free exercise of worship is a right of every citizen, and we are all subject to having to invoke this right. And many spiritists have had serious problems exercising their faith.

Tolerance breeds tolerance. Dialogue is the strong brick in building bridges. Synergy in common spaces is a mark of civility and fraternal spirit. Jesus said that his disciples will be recognized for loving each other. Love also requires respect for those who believe differently from us, and also for those who do not believe in anything. These are all temporary labels, sporadic, and what remains is the spirit, the essence, which walks the path of evolution with brothers hand in hand.



Solange Grande - sa.kardec@gmail.com



O Consolador
 Revista Semanal de Divulgação Espírita