Bob Luiz Botelho
Tairine Ferreira Pimentel
In a country where social inequality is the hallmark of corruption, access to basic sanitation and potable water is still a privilege. The vulnerability of the peripheries is intertwined with the lack of these services by the State and by the intersections of class, gender, sexuality and race. This compulsory exclusion of housing and sanitation rights makes the pandemic in Brazilian territory even more worrying. According to the SNIS – Sistema Nacional de Informação sobre Saneamento (National Sanitation Information System), more than 30 million Brazilians do not have access to basic sanitation. In addition to the so-called “risk groups” by the world health authorities, other social markers hinder access to health and other services: residents of peripheral communities, homeless people, LGBTQI + people, solo mothers, sex workers, migrant and refugee people, traditional peoples and communities such as peasants, indigenous and quilombolas.
Coronavirus: Brazilian conjuncture
To think about the implications of COVID-19 in Brazil is to reflect on the themes of health and territory and how these interfaces are related. We will adopt the concept of territory in its entirety and complexity, comprising physical, biological, social, political, economic dimensions and other resulting variables. The major territorial concern in a country of continental dimensions is that no epidemiological study is capable of reliably calculating the behavior of the virus in the country’s peripheries, due to specific environmental conditions.
The infection curve in Brazil grows faster and faster and most of the results of people who are already in treatment are being confirmed only now due to the scarcity of tests, which makes our inference of data very incipient. In Brazil, there is SUS – Sistema Único de Saúde, the Unified Health System, which ensure the constitutional right to health and its management model is centered on the local territory. However, the topic tends to collapse due to the unpreparedness of the Bolsonaro government, which insists on minimizing the risks of the pandemic in favor of a profit-seeking economy. When he insists on the discourse that COVID-19 is nothing more than a “gripezinha” or “little flu”; that the practice of horizontal isolation is exaggerated (ignoring the experiences of countries like China and South Korea); that only the elderly are at risk, among other statements that legitimize a necropolitical government, as the Cameroonian philosopher Achille Mbembe points out, in which some lives are worth less than others, with dead and marginalized bodies that can be discarded.
The speeches, attitudes and thoughts that Bolsonaro represents are validated and fed by ultra-conservative sectors of the economy, politics and religions (mainly Christian). In the midst of a global quarantine, which makes us rethink the model of society built, religious leaders distill their neoliberal projects amid pain and anxieties about the future.
Building new ecumenical horizons
The question that touches us as an ecumenical youth in this reflection is: who benefits from this speech in a context in which a pandemic reaches our people so diverse and with such contradictory realities? We can think of some answers from the relationship between capitalism and Christianity in the Western World. The construction of the current civilizing model in Latin America is due to the power relations imposed by colonialism, through a Christianity steeped in fundamentalism and messianism of imperial conquest. Walter Benjamin has already announced the parasitic relationship of capitalism and Christianity: one needs the other to exist. It is neoliberalism that enters, captures and is against all forms of life in the name of profit.
Against these discourses, many progressive religious movements, including local communities, have maintained a common effort to disseminate information on prevention of COVID 19. Several social media campaigns have been carried out so that people do not break the isolation and exercise faith within From home. One of the prominent hashtags was #FéNãoImuniza (#FaithDoesNotImunize), which was inspired by the speech of Baptist pastor Ed René Kivitz during the service transmitted by the Baptist Church of Água Branca. This campaign was coordinated by evangelical feminists Camila Mantovani and Rachel Daniel, and brought important information to reconcile faith and prevention. Another important campaign took place on April 5, opposing the fast called by Bolsonaro, the Usina de Valores and the Vladimir Herzog Institute proposed the #OJejumQueEscolhi (#TheFastThatIHaveChosen), which refers to the text of Isaiah 58, and encouraged Christians of different denominations, to manifest their faith and struggle based on justice and equality.
In addition to the actions of the virtual world, churches and movements have promoted fundraising and items for populations in situations of vulnerability, making their temples available to city halls and governments to use as blood centers and donation centers. Lay and ordained leaders put themselves in prayer and pastoral service even from a distance. Dissonant voices, and those that are prophetic, follow the call to promote justice, as sisters and brothers living in the same Common House.
KUHN, T. S. A estrutura das revoluções científicas. São Paulo: Perspectiva (Série Debates – Ciência), 2003 (8a Ed. – 1a Ed. 1962).
MBEMBE, Achille. Necropolítica. Arte&Ensaios: Revista do ppga/eba/UFRJ. n,32. Dezembo 2016.
BENJAMIN, Walter. O capitalismo como religião. Boitempo Editorial, 2015.