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At Least 31 Dead In Damascus Car Bomb Near Assad HQ, Russian Embassy



DAMASCUS - A series of bombings in Syria’s capital Thursday has killed at least 31 people, among them children and civilians. A car bomb struck the heavy-populated central Damascus district of Mazraa, near the headquarters of Syria’s ruling Baath party and the Russian Embassy.

I used to walk over this bridge almost every day. Between Mazra'a and Adawi in #Damascus. Aftermath of car bomb. twitter.com/NMSyria/status…

— NMSyria (@NMSyria) 21 février 2013

Syrian state-TV footage of the scene showed at least four lifeless bodies. Reports on casualties include children injured at a nearby school in the residential district of the capital. State media blamed the huge explosion on "terrorists" battling the regime.

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors violence in the country, reports that a car bomb exploded near security checkpoints between the Russian Embassy and the headquarters of President Bashar Assad’s party – which comes as Russia and the Arab League have announced they want to broker direct government-opposition talks.

A second blast was reported in Damascus’ northeastern Barzeh neighborhood, a security official told the Associated Press, while eyewitnesses and pro-government TV reported several other potential blasts.

pro govt Adunya TV says 4 explosions rocked #Damascus, ALthwra str,rukneldin, Barze & Sabee Bahrat square, dozens of civilians killed #syria

— Rula Amin (@RulaAmin) 21 février 2013

The violence comes as the opposition Syrian National Coalition is due to begin a two-day meeting in Egypt to discuss a framework for a possible solution to the Syrian war, BBC News reports.

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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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