Over 250,000 Evangelicals March for Jesus in Rio to Stand Up for Religious Freedom

The March for Jesus took to the streets of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Saturday, gathering around 250,000 people, according to military police reports.

The event brought together thousands of evangelicals to publicly express their faith in Jesus Christ as part of an effort to reveal how the Church is not confined within the walls of church buildings but alive and open to society.

Pastor Silas Malafaia, President-Pastor of the Assembly of God Vitória em Cristo Church, which has about 20,000 members in Brazil, was the president of the event, which saw thousands chant together, "Governor, authority, is Jesus Christ who rules this city!"

When asked why people looked so joyful in the march, Pastor Marco Antonio Peixoto of the Evangelical Fellowship International of Rio de Janeiro, said "This joy comes from Jesus, who changed our lives and transformed our lives," according to the Globo publication.

Malafaia, other Christian leaders and participants also took the opportunity to express their defense of religious freedom, freedom of speech, traditional family values (describing marriage as between one man and one woman), and life. Recently the country has fiercely debated same-sex unions.

"We respect the freedom of everyone, but we will protest until the end that what God has united together is man and woman. We will not stop giving our opinion. It is not discrimination. This behavior [homosexuality] is reprehensible," said Pastor Abner Ferreira of the Assembly of God in Madurai, in the north of Rio de Janeiro, according to the Boa Informação publication.

Silas Malafaia, who is known by his bold and polemic comments on LGBT issues, has spoke out against attempts to approval the "PL 122" law in the country, which speaks out about gay rights. He has insisted that the law would affect religious freedom and freedom of speech of people in Brazil, which is the second most populous Christian country in the world.

"The march is making a protest against the PL 122, the so-called law of homophobia, but for us it is a law of privilege. It's a law to shut people's mouths in the society who want to express their opinion against gay people," said Malafaia, according to Globo.

He justifies that the bill breaches the constitution. He has offered an example, saying that if a homosexual person becomes embarrassed or offended by anyone who believes homosexuality is a sinful or detrimental lifestyle, the offending person can be imprisoned for up to five years.

He also cites part of the controversial law that he says would mean a three to five year prison sentence for people who wish to prohibit homosexuals expressing "actions of love" in public places.

"The place of worship, the temple, is guaranteed by the Constitution, but the churchyard is not. It means that if a gay couple is kissing in the yard of my church and I put them out, I'll get three to five years in jail. What's this? It's crazy! In Brazil, one can criticize presidents, politicians, ministers, pastors, priests, and the devil. If one criticizes a gay, it is homophobia!" he said to another publication IG.

Silas Malafaia clarifies that he is not in favor of any kind of discrimination against homosexuals and is not in favor of homophobia, but claims that gay activist groups are imposing a type of "censorship" with the new law.

The bill is currently pending in Congress and proposes criminalization for bias acts motivated by sexual orientation or gender identity. An attempt to approve the bill started in 2006 but was stopped following the mobilization of religious and pro-family groups. However, the debate was reignited in April this year after the bill was reopened by Senator Marta Suplicy.

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