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Assad Warns France Not To Attack Syria

LE FIGARO (France)


DAMASCUS — Bashar al-Assad warned France not to launch a military strike, which the Syrian president said would support terrorism against the interests of the Syrian people. In an exclusive interview with French newspaper Le Figaro, Assad said that should Paris take part in a military intervention, "there will be repercussions, negative of course, for French interests."

Assad also reasserted that the Syrian army had not carried the chemical attack on August 21, challenging the United States, France and other countries that claim otherwise to publish convincing evidence. "All the accusations are based on allegations made by terrorists and on arbitrary video clips broadcast on the Internet," Assad said. "If the Americans, the French or the British had even a single (sign of) proof, they would have shown it from day one. We do not discuss rumors. We only deal with facts. If what they say is true, let them provide evidence of it."

The interview took place before the French government published its report Monday night on the alleged chemical attack of August 21. The nine-page document says that Assad's forces used chemical weapons three times between April and August and that the rebels do not have the capabilities to carry such an attack.

Speaking about U.S. President Barack Obama's decision to wait for a Sep. 9 vote by Congress on whether to intervene, Assad told Le Figaro: "For us, a strong man prevents rather than starts a war. But Obama is weak because he is facing pressure from within the United States."

With the French Parliament due to debate France's participation in a possible military intervention on Wednesday, Assad said: "How can France fight terrorism in Mali but support it in Syria? Will France become an example of the political double standards promoted by the US?"

French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault announced Monday evening that the parliamentary debate will not be followed by a vote, leaving the decision in the hands of President Francois Hollande.

Le Figaro reports that a recent poll shows 64% of French citizens oppose an intervention in Syria.

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How 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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