Geopolitics

Evangelical Passion Drives Brazil Presidential Challenger Marina Silva

Will Divine Providence, or "Bible roulette," play a role in the outcome of next month's Brazilian elections?

Presidential candidate Marina Silva
Presidential candidate Marina Silva
Natuza Nery, Ranier Bragon and Andreia Sadi

BRASILIA — In difficult times, when she has to make a tough decision, Brazilian presidential hopeful Marina Silva usually turns to a faithful companion, one that has barely left her side in her 56 years: the Bible.

Although she is running to represent the secular Brazilian Socialist Party, Silva is an evangelist. This particular characteristic could prove decisive in the presidential race, especially in a country where more than one-quarter of the population now identify themselves as evangelists.

Recent polls show that Silva is well-positioned ahead of the first round of voting Oct. 5, and could beat incumbent President Dilma Rousseff in a runoff.

Born Catholic, she almost became a nun in her teenage years before converting to Evangelicalism in the late 1990s. The particular Christian movement she follows is Pentecostalism, whose adherents believe that the Holy Spirit intervenes directly in people's lives.

The politician converted after receiving what she called her "third death sentence" by doctors when she was very ill. Silva says she was cured thanks to a divine message, and since 2004 she has been a missionary for an "Assembly of God" in the capital of Brasilia.

There are two specific occasions when she made a decision after participating in what is sometimes called "Bible roulette," in which people randomly open to a Bible page looking for spiritual guidance in a verse that will point in one direction instead of another.

According to a close Silva aide, one of these occasions was Oct. 4, 2013, just hours before surprising the country's political class by announcing her support of Eduardo Campos and becoming the Socialist Party candidate's running mate in the upcoming presidential election. At the time, Campos also said that the political alliance between the two had been inspired by the Bible.

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Silva and late candidate Eduardo Campos in November 2013 — Photo: José Cruz/ABr

Of course, we know by now that Campos was killed in an Aug. 13 plane crash, leaving Silva as the party's candidate for next month's election.

The other occasion of "Bible roulette" was described in her authorized biography, Marina: A Life for a Cause. Before agreeing to the book, Silva needed to hear "somebody else's opinion."

"She got up from the couch and went to get a Bible," author Marília de Camargo César wrote. So the approval for the biography itself came after "a personal message from God," which was expressed in the psalm she read after randomly opening the holy book.

Cheating death

"For her to make a decision, bless her, it takes time," explains clergywoman Valnice Milhomens, a friend of Silva's for the past decade. "Not only does she consult the earth, she also consults the heavens. She needs to hear everybody for the decision to mature.”

Speaking after Campos' fatal crash, Silva attributed her absence aboard the plane that crashed north of São Paulo to "Divine Providence." It was not the first time she has cheated death.

Growing up in a very poor family in the state of Acre, in northwestern Brazil, she was struck several times by different diseases, including malaria, hepatitis, leishmaniasis and even suffered heavy metal poisoning, all of which have forced her to maintain a rather restricted diet.

Then in 1997, she says she had an epiphany that led her to become an evangelist after yet another health scare. It was her doctor who, on the phone one day, put her through to a young pastor of the Assembly of God, André Salles.

"I thought that was an unusual thing to do for a doctor," the Socialist candidate explained once. "Then the pastor talked to me and said, "I have the gift a revelation of the Holy Spirit.""

After that, Marina Silva converted to evangelicalism. Two years later, while she was still ill, she had a divine revelation while waiting in a church line for the anointing of the sick. The letters "DMSA" came to her mind. She only remembered later that this was the name of a drug from the United States that she had refused to take a few years back. She took it, and the level of mercury in her body dropped.

The new pastor at her church, Hadman Daniel, believes that she doesn't need a spiritual guide. "She has her own relationship with God. She knows God," he says.

According to Daniel, she turns to the church in difficult times, like when she accepted Campos' offer to be his running mate. There was another time before that, back when she was Environment Minister, and a fire broke out in the northern Amazon forest.

"We prayed," the pastor recalls. "And although it wasn't forecast, that same day it started to rain."

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Pro-life and Pro-abortion Rights Protests in Washington

Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

👋 Håfa adai!*

Welcome to Thursday, where new Omicron findings arrive from South Africa, abortion rights are at risk at the U.S. Supreme Court and Tyrannosaurus rex has got some new competition. From Germany, we share the story of a landmark pharmacy turned sex toy museum.

[*Chamorro - Guam]

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🌎  7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW

• COVID update: South Africa reports a higher rate of reinfections from the Omicron variant than has been registered with the Beta and Delta variants, though researchers await further findings on the effects of the new strain. Meanwhile, the UK approves the use of a monoclonal therapy, known as sotrovimab, to treat those at high risk of developing severe COVID-19 symptoms.The approval comes as the British pharmaceutical company, GSK, separately announced the treatment has shown to “retain activity” against the Omicron variant. Down under, New Zealand’s reopening, slated for tomorrow is being criticized as posing risks to its under-vaccinated indigenous Maori.

• Supreme Court poised to gut abortion rights: The U.S. Supreme Court signaled a willingness to accept a Republican-backed Mississippi law that would bar abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, even in cases of rape or incest. A ruling, expected in June, may see millions of women lose abortion access, 50 years after it was recognized as a constitutional right in the landmark Roe v. Wade case.

• Macri charged in Argentine spying case: Argentina’s former president Mauricio Macri has been charged with ordering the secret services to spy on the family members of 44 sailors who died in a navy submarine sinking in 2017. The charge carries a sentence of three to ten years in prison. Macri, now an opposition leader, says the charges are politically motivated.

• WTA suspends China tournaments over Peng Shuai: The Women's Tennis Association (WTA) announced the immediate suspension of all tournaments in China due to concerns about the well-being of Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai, and the safety of other players. Peng disappeared from public view after accusing a top Chinese official of sexual assault.

• Michigan school shooting suspect to be charged as an adult: The 15-year-old student accused of killing four of his classmates and wounding seven other people in a Michigan High School will face charges of terrorism and first-degree murder. Authorities say the suspect had described wanting to attack the school in cellphone videos and a journal.

• Turkey replaces finance minister amid economic turmoil: Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan appointed a strong supporter of his low-interest rate drive, Nureddin Nebati, as Turkey’s new finance minister.

• A battle axe for a tail: Chilean researchers announced the discovery of a newly identified dinosaur species with a completely unique feature from any other creatures that lived at that time: a flat, weaponized tail resembling a battle axe.

🗞️  FRONT PAGE

South Korean daily Joong-ang Ilbo reports on the discovery of five Omicron cases in South Korea. The Asian nation has broken its daily record for overall coronavirus infections for a second day in a row with more than 5,200 new cases. The variant cases were linked to arrivals from Nigeria and prompted the government to tighten border controls.


#️⃣  BY THE NUMBERS

¥10,000

In the northeastern Chinese city of Harbin, a reward of 10,000 yuan ($1,570) will be given to anyone who volunteers to take a COVID-19 test and get a positive result, local authorities announced on Thursday on the social network app WeChat.

📰  STORY OF THE DAY

Why an iconic pharmacy is turning into a sex toy museum

The "New Pharmacy" was famous throughout the St. Pauli district of Hamburg for its history and its long-serving owner. Now the owner’s daughter is transforming it into a museum dedicated to the history of sex toys, linking it with the past "curing" purpose of the shop, reports Eva Eusterhus in German daily Die Welt.

💊 The story begins in autumn 2018, when 83-year-old Regis Genger stood at the counter of her pharmacy and realized that the time had come for her to retire. At least that is the first thing her daughter Anna Genger tells us when we meet, describing the turning point that has also shaped her life and that of her business partner Bianca Müllner. The two women want to create something new here, something that reflects the pharmacy's history and Hamburg's eclectic St. Pauli quarter (it houses both a red light district and the iconic Reeperbahn entertainment area) as well as their own interests.

🚨 Over the last few months, the pharmacy has been transformed into L'Apotheque, a venture that brings together art and business in St. Pauli's red light district. The back rooms will be used for art exhibitions, while the old pharmacy space will house a museum dedicated to the history of sex toys. Genger and Müllner want to show that desire has always existed and that people have always found inventive ways of maximizing pleasure, even in times when self-gratification was seen as unnatural and immoral, as a cause of deformities.

🏩 Genger and Müllner want the museum to show how the history of desire has changed over time. The art exhibitions, which will also center on the themes of physicality and sexuality, are intended to complement the exhibits. They are planning to put on window displays to give passers-by a taste of what is to come, for example, British artist Bronwen Parker-Rhodes's film Lovers, which offers a portrait of sex workers during lockdown.

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com

📣 VERBATIM

I would never point a gun at anyone and pull a trigger at them. Never.

— U.S. actor Alec Baldwin spoke to ABC News, his first interview since the accident that killed cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the set of the movie Rust last October. The actor said that although he was holding the gun he didn’t pull the trigger, adding that the bullet “wasn't even supposed to be on the property.”

✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet and Jane Herbelin

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