Brazilian voices shout with silence to echo their pain for COVID-19 victims

(Photo: Vania Costa / WCC)

Church-based organizations in Brazil have launched a campaign for people to express solidarity with all who have lost family members and friends due to the novel coronavirus pandemic and its systemic consequences in a reality marked by inequality, such as hunger, violence, and racism.

Brazilians have recently faced harder times on a daily basis with the increasing impacts of COVID-19 at all levels of society.

Inspired by the theme "Only Silence can Echo our Pain," the 'non-action' campaign also calls upon Brazilians to show their indignation at the lack of concrete actions by the federal government to refrain the advancement of COVID-19.

They are advocating the posting of messages in social media or hanging signs in their houses and churches using the hashtag #SilencioPelaDor (silence because of pain).

COVID-19 originated in Wuhan, China last December, and has spread to at least 188 countries and regions, with Europe and the US currently the worst hit in number of cases with more than 2 million cases followed by Brazil with 850,000 cases. Globally there have been 7.85 million cases with more than 431,000 deaths according to the Johns Hopkins University monitor.

The disease has been described as a common enemy for all of humanity, but dealing with its divided countries and religions on political lines.

World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom told journalists on June 12, said, "We're truly concerned, because the world is divided. The world has never seen anything like this since the flu in 1918, which is more than hundred years ago. This is a very dangerous virus. And it's very hard to fight this kind of virus in a divided world."

U.S. President Donald Trump and his Brazilian counterpart Jair Bolsonaro have poured scorn on scientists observations of the disease despite the heavy tolls in their countries.

Bolsonaro, who has famously compared the virus to a "little flu," regularly questions information on the pandemic from public health officials and the mainstream media, the AFP news agency reported June 12.

Even as the virus has surged in Brazil, he has railed against lockdown measures in various states, arguing business closures and stay-at-home orders are needlessly wrecking the economy.

In Brazil, June 11 was chosen to launch the silent protest campaign because it was the Feast of Corpus Christi, a Roman Catholic liturgical solemnity and a federal holiday in the largest Catholic country in the world.


The concept, developed by Brother Henrique Peregrino da Trindade, from the city of Salvador, northeast of Brazil, is based on the message that silence and reflection can echo the pain of an entire country.

It is based on having a firm and nonviolent attitude that can call for political action so that no more lives are lost.

Rev. Romi Bencke, general secretary of the National Council of Christian Churches of Brazil, said that the "non-action" of silence caused by pain approach is inspired by Mahatma Ghandhi and Martin Luther King Jr.

"We want to draw attention to the option made by the Brazilian government in not having an effective policy in the face of COVID-19, which is currently affecting the most economically vulnerable populations," she said.

"We also want to give visibility to the dozens of thousands of deaths that could have been avoided if the federal administration had taken the pandemic seriously."

Rev. Ioan Sauca, World Council of Churches interim general secretary, said that as the world watches the epicenter of the pandemic moving to Latin America, "our prayers are with the thousands of families who lost their loved ones. Every life counts.

"May the silence of those Brazilians who mourn the pain of their losses and difficulties caused by this terrible situation be a reminder to the country's leadership of the utmost responsibility to preserve human dignity at all costs."

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