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Terror in Europe

Standing With Charlie Hebdo: Around The Corner, Around The World

"I am Charlie" image used on social media in support of the victims of the Paris attack.
"I am Charlie" image used on social media in support of the victims of the Paris attack.
Bertrand Hauger

PARIS — There's a nice trompe l'oeil mural on rue Nicolas Appert here in the 11th arrondissement. I once stood in front of it for a little while on my lunch break, trying to make sense of the artist's visual tricks.

Today, making sense of what happened on that street feels impossible: Twelve people, among them some of France's best cartoonists, with plenty of visual and rhetorical tricks of their own, were gunned down at the offices of satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo. Just a three-minute walk from where I myself work with words and images to try to make our own, different kind of sense of the world.

I should confess from the start that I've never been a regular reader of Charlie Hebdo — hell, I don't even think I've ever bought it. All the same. Cabu, Charb, Tignous, Wolinski: Familiar names and faces, drawing styles that a bande dessinée lover like myself could instantly recognize and appreciate. And though I sometimes have found that Charlie Hebdo provokes just for provocation's sake, never has it been clearer that their right to do so is sacrosanct.

In their own idiosyncratic and immediate way, cartoonists can be considered the front line of free expression in France, le pays des Lumières. Today we see just how much was at stake, and at risk, from where they stood.

#CharlieHebdo pic.twitter.com/15O4YC2KWg

— Ruben L. Oppenheimer (@RLOppenheimer) January 7, 2015

The more straightforward media I work for, Worldcrunch — though produced in English — is based in Paris not just by chance. The French capital's cultural, ethnic and political melange, and its distance from the traditional Anglo-American viewpoints, makes it the perfect place to cover the world.

So this attack hits home. Not only because of its geographic proximity to our offices, but because it crosses a new line in the way that people are increasingly targeted for their ideas and for their work delivering information. When American war correspondent James Foley was killed and decapitated in Syria in August, it was horrible of course, yet somehow remote to those of us working in supposedly safer parts of the news business.

We don't know yet who carried out this morning's shooting. Regardless, it is scary to think that the ramifications of intolerance are such that they can wreak havoc in a quiet, nondescript Parisian street, and that people can be killed for making drawings on paper.

Can't sleep tonight, thoughts with my French cartooning colleagues, their families and loved ones #CharlieHebdo pic.twitter.com/LqIMRCHPgK

— David Pope (@davpope) January 7, 2015

I worry about the devastating effect on some people's opinion on Islam, tainted by a few extremists, and what it will mean for that singular way we've always managed to live together in Paris, whether you come from East Asia, East Africa ... or like me, a small town in eastern France.

I will go to the demonstration in Place de la République tonight. Not because caricaturing Muhammad makes me laugh. It doesn't. But I want to stand alongside people who also think that others have the right to do so. Also, I have always found it strangely comforting the way demonstrations can pack thousands of strangers close together in peace — and right now I could use just that kind of comfort.

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Brazil's Evangelical Surge Threatens Survival Of Native Afro-Brazilian Faith

Followers of the Afro-Brazilian Umbanda religion in four traditional communities in the country’s northeast are resisting pressure to convert to evangelical Christianity.

image of Abel José, an Umbanda priest

Abel José, an Umbanda priest

Agencia Publica
Géssica Amorim

Among a host of images of saints and Afro-Brazilian divinities known as orixás, Abel José, 42, an Umbanda priest, lights some candles, picks up his protective beads and adjusts the straw hat that sits atop his head. He is preparing to treat four people from neighboring villages who have come to his house in search of spiritual help and treatment for health ailments.

The meeting takes place discreetly, in a small room that has been built in the back of the garage of his house. Abel lives in the quilombo of Sítio Bredos, home to 135 families. The community, located in the municipality of Betânia of Brazil’s northeastern state of Pernambuco, is one of the municipality’s four remaining communities that have been certified as quilombos, the word used to refer to communities formed in the colonial era by enslaved Africans and/or their descendents.

In these villages there are almost no residents who still follow traditional Afro-Brazilian religions. Abel, Seu Joaquim Firmo and Dona Maura Maria da Silva are the sole remaining followers of Umbanda in the communities in which they live. A wave of evangelical missionary activity has taken hold of Betânia’s quilombos ever since the first evangelical church belonging to the Assembleia de Deus group was built in the quilombo of Bredos around 20 years ago. Since then, other evangelical, pentecostal, and neo-pentecostal churches and congregations have established themselves in the area. Today there are now nine temples spread among the four communities, home to roughly 900 families.

The temples belong to the Assembleia de Deus, the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and the World Church of God's Power, the latter of which has over 6,000 temples spread across Brazil and was founded by the apostle and televangelist Valdemiro Santiago, who became infamous during the pandemic for trying to sell beans that he had blessed as a Covid-19 cure. Assembleia de Deus alone, who are the largest pentecostal denomination in the world, have built five churches in Betânia’s quilombos.

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