Tuesday, February 17
In 2014 the World Council of Churches repatriated to Brazil thousands of documents that had been used to write Brasil: Nunca Mais (Brazil: Never Again), a book documenting state-sponsored repression and torture during the 1964–1985 military dictatorship. Three key actors in gathering the evidence and writing the book were Catholic Archbishop Paulo EvaristoArns, Rev. Jim Wright, and Rev. Charles Harper.
Both Wright and Harper were the Brazilian-born sons of Presbyterian missionaries; both became PC(USA) ministers. Wright became a PC(USA) mission worker in the land of his birth. Harper worked on the human rights desk at the World Council of Churches.
The repatriation of these documents came at a time when the recently formed National Truth Commission had begun gathering evidence to try to understand why most Brazilians did not oppose the military dictatorship.
In 1964, in the depths of the Cold War, Brazil was an authoritarian society. The military was able to convince politicians and business leaders, the media, and religious groups that our core values were threatened. Many also felt that their traditional authority was at risk.
Brasil: Nunca Mais describes the ways many religious groups persecuted those who refused to accept the logic of authoritarianism, forcing them—if they escaped detention and torture—to live like pariahs, even if they escaped into exile.
One of the most urgent tasks faced by the National Truth Commission is to help us understand how the military dictatorship produced in so many Brazilians an ideology of victimhood. Many truly felt that Brazilian society was under threat and that even torture was justified against those that the state identified as “the enemy.”
Because the voice of authoritarianism is still strong in Brazil, even in our churches, understanding why so many bought into this ideology must be a higher priority than vengeance against the perpetrators. If we do not let the commission’s work play out, the voices of the tortured will remain in silence.
—Rev. Derval Dasilio, United Presbyterian Church of Brazil
Let us join in prayer for:
Independent Presbyterian Church of Brazil (IPIB): Rev. Aureo Rodrigues de Oliveira, moderator, Rev. Roberto Mauro de Souza Castro, executive secretary • United Presbyterian Church of Brazil (IPU): Anita Wright Torres, moderator, Wertson Brazil de Souza, first secretary • Ecumenical Post-Graduate Program in Sciences of Religion (PGCR) of the Methodist University of São Paulo: Dr. Jung Mo Sung, dean, Rev. Dr. Helmut Renders, director • School of Higher Theological Studies (EST): Rev. Dr. Oneide Bobson, rector
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Let us pray
Creator God, grant us wisdom and strength to understand power as serving all in justice and love in Jesus’ name. Amen.