Luiz Fernando Martins da Silva is one of the participants and a speaker at the 5th African Spirituality Conference which was held recently at African Institute Essex College, USA. The Candomblé priest, lawyer, and retired professor of law describe the event as one of the best with a unique opportunity for him to dialogue with the global audience from the African Diaspora, who profess some form of African-based religiosity. He discussed the topic “Paths to Health, Mental, and Spiritual Well-Being in Brazil: The Fight against Religious Racism Committed against Religions of African Origin in Brazil”
In a chat with ADEWALE ADENRELE, Luiz Fernando Martins da Silva said he has been active in the fight against racism in the Black Movement since 1990 and in movements in favor of religious freedom, especially Candomble which is an African-Brazilian religion combining African, Roman Catholic, and indigenous Brazilian elements. Specifically: the ceremony or dance connected with this religion.
“I started in 2000, and rose to the position of Ogã, and in which I confirmed myself in 2007, in the most sacred temple, in the City of Salvador Bahia. As a lawyer and professor of law, I was able to help my community to fight against racism and religious discrimination. I ended up participating directly or indirectly in some of the best-known causes involving the practice of racism against black people, in causes in defense of affirmative action policies, such as quotas for black people, and also in causes aimed at protecting the exercise of the right freedom of religion for adherents or priests of religions of African origin.” He said
“And as a Law Course Professor for 25 years, mainly teaching about Human Rights, I was able to help train generations of lawyers who are sensitive to the need to combat the practice of racism, and all forms of discrimination, especially those practiced against religions of African matrix, such as Candomblé. I also had the opportunity to do the same things working within the Brazilian state, when I held the position of Ombudsman in the Presidency of the Republic, assigned to the Ombudsman of the Special Secretariat for Policies for the Promotion of Racial Equality of the Presidency of the Republic – SEPPIR-PR, in the management of Minister Matilde Ribeiro, in the government of President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, from 2005 to 2007”
While differentiating between the European and Western African belief systems, the priest said there are many, considering the various perspectives that the question allows. One is that the basis of the main European religions is centered on a written code covering mainly the Judeo-Christian traditions, the Holy Bible.
In Africa, however, the ethnic variety of the continent and the history of colonization and diaspora make it difficult to generalize the theme. Currently, the Abrahamic religions predominate in the African territory: Christianity, and Islam, with the so-called traditional religions, practiced, which vary according to the territory and ethnic groups, being their oral base.
The Yoruba religion, for example, is based on a belief system of the eponymous ethnic group currently inhabiting West Africa, mainly Nigeria. It is based on the idea of a supreme creator, who reigns above the deities known as Orishás (Deities). Many Brazilian religions of African origin derive from Yoruba, such as Candomblé and Umbanda. Ancestors are also worshiped.
Luiz Fernando Martins da Silva also responded when asked if there should be a media campaign programme to celebrate Yoruba religion, customs, culture, and tradition through spirituality in purity by bringing together a wider audience of Orisha devotees, traditional worshipers, traditional and cultural institutions.
“I believe that this would be one of the most important good practices to overcome religious intolerance and favor the environment of religious freedom. In my country, Brazil, there are several national and regional laws favoring not only the fight against anti-black racism but also the contribution given by Africans who came enslaved for the construction of the Brazilian nation, as well as its traditions, cultures, and religions. Candomblé in Brazil has always influenced government officials to achieve these goals. The terreiro I belong to, Ilê Axê Oxumarê, based in the city of Salvador, Bahia, which has the spiritual guidance of Babalorixá Sivanilton Encarnação da Mata, better known as Babá Pecê de Oxumarê, is always meeting with the community that worships the Orixás, with government authorities, and even with the Academy, to claim rights and disseminate the religion, through lectures, meetings, and presentation of projects.
In the same vein, Luiz Fernando Martins da Silva express excitement over the visit of Ooni of Ife, His Imperial Majesty, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi (Ojaja II) at the Official launching of Annual African Religion Day (ISESE DAY) that was held inside the banquet hall at the President’s office in Brasilia, Capital of Brazil and was hosted by President Lula, as the country unveiled some initiatives for the reunification of the over 100 million Afro-Brazilians via his program tagged “Back To Home”.
“I found this visit very auspicious, as very important. His Majesty, the Ooni of Ilé Ifé, brings with him many traditions, culture, and ancestral strength that we need in my country. His leadership allows them to open doors that would hardly open for groups or people in their countries. In Brazil, it was no different. He was not only received by the President of the Republic and his wife, but also by the authorities who head other State bodies, such as the Legislative Power, where he spoke. Ooni was also very well received by the African-based religious community, which is very diverse and regionally distributed, but mainly by Candomblé practitioners in Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Rio Grande do Sul, and Bahia, where the Yoruba tradition is well established with strong initiatives like these create possibilities for religions of African origin to practice their rituals with assurance and freedom.” He said
While discussing tracing back ancestral links to Nigeria, the Candomblé priest also talked about the Yoruba language and tradition which is from the West African countries of Nigeria, Benin Republic, and parts of Togo and Sierra Leone, therefore constituting one of the largest single languages in sub-Saharan Africa. Yoruba is also spoken in Cuba and Brazil. “
“In Brazil, Candomblé is made up of religious communities (called terreiros, roças, casa, etc.), which are distinguished by linguistic groups that we call “nations”. So we have Candomblé Angola, Jeje, Ketu etc. The so-called Candomblé Ketu, based in Yoruba, mainly from Nigeria, is considered the best known in Brazil. It is mainly practiced in the state of Bahia, from where it spread throughout the country, expanding mainly in the states of Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, and Rio Grande do Sul. From Bahia to the Amazon Region, variations of Candomblé Ketu are practiced, with names like Xangô, Xambá, etc. The language spoken in the rituals practiced in these Candomblés is Yoruba, keeping due proportions, as it is transmitted orally. Ketu’s teachings are transmitted by the Babalorixás and Yalorixás through speech, who teach the initiates to worship the Orishas. Regarding the Egungun Call; of the rituals referring to the Eguns, the person responsible for the cult is called Ojé or Alpini, according to the hierarchical degree of the priest. This cult is more recurrent on the Island of Itaparica, in the State of Bahia, and the language used in the ritual practice is Yoruba.
However, the Yoruba language spoken in the Ketu Candomblés influenced the official language of the Brazilian State, Portuguese, due to the cultural strength of the religion, reaching the point of incorporating, definitively, countless words and expressions.
Luiz Fernando Martins da Silva said he is ready to support, promote and publicize African Development Magazine in Brazil, among partners in the government, in civil society, among Candomblé militants, priests, supporters and among academics. He stressed further that he had some works that were recorded in journalistic articles or published in electronic magazines or in e-books. And also that he had represented the Brazilian State at a UN Conference in Geneva, Switzerland, in 2006, accompanying the minister of my country that I served for 2 years, dealing with the repression of crimes of racism and anti-Semitism on the internet.