This is part two of a five part series written by USPG entitled Living with a World of Difference, celebrating diversity within the anglican community.
Hold a short time of silence together to still your minds and recall God’s presence, and then pray aloud together:
Teach me, O God, not to pass judgement on my neighbour
until I have walked many miles in his sandals
and carried his burden on my shoulders.
Instead, make me mindful of the needs of my neighbour. Amen.
Brazil is the largest country in LatinAmerica, with an extraordinary mixture of ethnicities and cultures. The nation has a complex and at times, harrowing history: including the exploitation of indigenous peoples, of colonisation, the influence of the slave trade, huge international and internal migration, a rapid industrial rise, the degradation of traditional religions, and enormous disparity between the materially wealthy and poor and between urban and rural inhabitants. Such diversity can easily create tensions.
The Igreja Episcopal Anglicana do Brasil, IEAB, (Anglican Episcopal Church of Brazil) traces its roots back to 1810, with the establishment of expatriate Anglican chaplaincies from Britain. Episcopalian missionaries from the USA arrived in Porto Alegre in the south of Brazil in 1889, after the separation of Church and State, and from there the mission spread northwards. The Province, which is one of the few Portuguese-speaking churches in the Communion, became autonomous in 1965. It now consists of nine dioceses and one missionary district. The IEAB is a church influenced by Liberation Theology, living out the Gospel with a clear ‘bias for the poor’, and with strong ecumenical and interfaith links. The Anglican Bishop of Rio de Janeiro, Eduardo Coelho Grillo, explains how an annual march through the city is leading to greater understanding and deeper trust:
A strong and brave inter-religious movement has been taking place in Rio de Janeiro now for more than 10 years. Under the motto ‘we understand each other as we walk together’, different religious groups have been literally walking together through some of the most important streets of the
city in an atmosphere of trust and respect.
That is a symbolic act of communion in a country historically stained by the enslavement of indigenous and African peoples. Over 300 years, socalled western Christian society has ‘demonised’ indigenous peoples and African religious experiences, generating prejudice, scorn and violence. In many places in Brazil Umbanda and Candomble religious places of worship have been targets of violence and destruction – even in the week that I am writing this. And yet every September we see this march through Rio de Janeiro as the fruit of greater tolerance, respect and acceptance as Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, spiritualists, and members of the Baha’i, Wicca, Umbanda, Candomble and other faiths walk together.
There is an increasing wave of intolerance, fundamentalism and religious violence these days in Brazil that has led to disturbing acts of both emotional and physical violence. But we still believe that love overcomes hatred as we have been making clear at public events of ecumenical and inter-religious dialogue. We are firmly grounded in the words of Galatians 3:28 – ‘There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus’.
Now before faith came, we were imprisoned and guarded under the law until faith would be revealed. Therefore the law was our disciplinarian until Christ came, so that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian, for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. As many of you as were baptised into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise.
But in your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord. Always be ready to make your defence to anyone who demands from you an account of the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and reverence.
Pray the Lord’s Prayer aloud, inviting each person to choose their preferred language.
Have a time of silence, followed by an opportunity to pray aloud any issues that have arisen during the session. Conclude by praying aloud together:
Praise my soul our good Lord, sing songs to God’s name,
for God has brought my life
into fresh waters when I was thirsty.
God has fed me with the Bread of Life
when I was starving.
God has sustained me along all my days
and never has put me to shame.
Praise my soul our good Lord,
for all his goodness. Amen.