The House of Bishops of the Igreja Episcopal Anglicana do Brasil (IEAB) – the Episcopal Anglican Church of Brazil – is urging the country’s Christians to “read your Bible in a profound and prayerful way” as the nation prepares for the run-off presidential election. The first round of the election, on 7 October, saw far-right candidate Jair Bolsonaro from the Social Liberal Party fall short of an overall majority, polling 46.03 per cent. Bolsonaro, who is recovering after being stabbed while campaigning in Juiz de Fora, Minas Gerais, will now face a run-off on 28 October against second-placed candidate Fernando Haddad of the Workers’ Party. He polled 29.28 per cent of the votes.
The man who stabbed Bolsonaro, 40-year-old Adelio Bispo de Oliveira, reportedly claimed that he had been “ordered by God to carry out the attack”. His lawyer, Pedro Possa, told Bloomberg news network that Oliveira had “said he acted due to political and religious reasons, against Bolsonaro’s prejudices. He acted without anyone else’s participation nor on anyone’s order.”
In their statement, signed by eight diocesan bishops – including the Primate, Bishop Naudal Alves Gomes – and seven emeritus bishops, the leaders of the IEAB say: “Dear Christians in this country, we challenge you to read your Bible in a profound and prayerful way, confronting messages that are clearly opposed to the Gospel of Christ, avoiding the use of God’s name in vain, rejecting anti-Christian and anti-democratic proposals who seem to come directly from God.
“The choice we are going to make might have effects that will last more than four years of government. All signs point to increased violence and discrimination, creating a serious risk to freedom, justice and peace. May we make our choice guided by these three principles. Only in this way we will embrace our Anglican and Christian identity, only then we will show our commitment to democracy. Let us pray together.”
Through their statement, the bishops say that they are “publicly calling on all people who take part [in]f our church and Brazilian society for a serious reflection” on the elections. “We are living in a time when aggressive, intolerant behaviour and the dissemination of false news violently violate non-negotiable principles of the Christian faith”, they say. “Followers of Jesus cannot ignore how much, our Lord Jesus Christ, exalted those who are just, who are peacemakers, and who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake (Matthew 5: 9). For true religion is the practice of love, kindness and the establishment of justice for all people (cf. Jeremiah 9:23, Micah 6:8 and James 1:9).”
They continue: “The point is not that there is conflict in society. All human societies, at all times and in all places, have been through some sort of conflict. Conflict expresses, in simple terms, disagreement with injustices, with violation of rights, with economic oppression, and with discrimination.
“What worries us as shepherds is the encouragement of conflict by denying dialogue and public debates, by hatred of those who think differently, and by using lies as a weapon to demonise people and projects.
“The Episcopal Anglican Church of Brazil is part of the Anglican Communion, which is found in more than 150 countries around the world and, through its theological reflection and public positions, has established itself unashamedly for human rights and on the side of public institutions which ensure them, through concrete actions to promote justice and peace.
“Our communion of churches respects and even embraces dissent, a plurality of views on our faith, and respects social and political choices its members take. We are a church that strives to build a path of equality and peaceful co-existence, amid doctrinal, ethical and social differences among people. It worries us when our brothers and sisters ignore such call which flows out of their own faith tradition, and fail to correctly discern a way forward.
“We cannot agree with the use of language that harasses, curses, shames and disrespects people as a way of confronting political and ideological differences. We cannot condone the use of language that glorifies and incites violence as a way to solve social, political or economic problems; which expresses clear disagreement with globally accepted standards of social protection and which does not guarantee the rights of the poor, women and minorities.
“The moment our country is going through requires us to know how to recognise the tree by its fruits. It also demands us not to forget, in a country where Christians are a majority, the consequences of teaching what they believe to be the legacy of tradition or the biblical truth, knowing that, without knowledge, people may fall and be led astray. Without wise and just leadership, the disintegration society and the collapse of our future might come. Without truth, there is no way to build peace and foster justice.
“We recognise that both churches and Brazilian society are divided, but we call for discernment, through reflection and prayer, and for harmonious co-existence of the majorities and minorities, by building public policies that address Brazilian problems in a climate of absolute and unconditional respect for democratic institutions.
“We call on our people to seriously evaluate candidates’ programs and not to minimise or ignore the signs of our times, such as: people being beaten or harassed because of their manner of life or activism, international public opinion alarmed by Brazil’s directions, intellectuals and social activists who inform us about our reality and the daily life of local communities and national and international networks of social action and religious leaders who admonish us that, by choosing Jesus as the model, we must bear fruit in terms of solidarity, healing, care and transformation for the common good.”
In addition to the presidential election run-off, a second-round of voting will take place on 28 October for gubernatorial elections to at which Governors and Vice Governors of a number of states and federal districts will be decided.