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Angolan authorities order seven Brazilian pastors of the UCKG to leave the country

Seven Brazilian pastors of the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God (IURD) were notified by the Angolan migration services to leave the country within eight days, according to documentation to which Lusa had access this Friday.

: Lusa
Lusa  

Among the Brazilian pastors is the Brazilian pastor Israel da Silva Gonçalves, and his wife, Maria Gonçalves, according to the Notification of Abandonment from the Migration and Foreigners Service (SME).

The document, dated April 8, 2021, states that the temporary stay visas granted to pastors and bishops "for cessation of ecclesiastical activity in the national territory" were cancelled, after the Government decided to recognize only the national branch of the UCKG as legitimate, in a process that has caused controversy in Angola and Brazil.

In the notification, one can read that Israel da Silva Gonçalves should "voluntarily leave the country, within a period not exceeding eight days from the date of knowledge of this notification, under Article 31 of Law No. 13/19, of May 23, Law on the Legal Regime of Foreign Citizens in the Republic of Angola.

In statements to Lusa, Ivone Teixeira, spokeswoman for the Brazilian branch of the UCKG, explained that the pastors received the notification of abandonment, Thursday, without prior notice, after a first decision to that effect had been appealed.

According to Ivone Teixeira, besides the Brazilian pastors, in a total of 59, there are pastors of other nationalities (28), Mozambicans, São Tomenseans, Argentines and a Spaniard, who should also be notified to leave the Angolan territory.

For Ivone Teixeira, this is "a coup" carried out "by the Angolan wing of the UCKG, which is being supported by some state agencies.

"The executive power, in this case INAR [National Institute for Religious Affairs] cannot validate a process that is still in the judicial forum and that has not yet been decided, we are still waiting for that decision, there are several gaps," said the spokeswoman for the UCKG, referring to the recognition by the executive of the Angolan wing as the only one with legitimacy to lead in Angola the religious institution founded in Brazil by Edir Macedo.

Ivone Teixeira expressed confidence in the Angolan justice system and in a reversal of the decision taken.

"As soon as these processes go through the courts there is a lot of things that will revert in our favor, because first they took the churches by storm, and they are certifying a group of fraudsters in a totally illegal way," stressed Ivone Teixeira, considering that there is a "state of revolt" among pastors and members of the UCKG.

"The people, the Angolan pastors who are here, more than 200 pastors, are all very upset, but we have already taken all the legal steps, we appealed today and we will wait," she stressed.

The spokeswoman considered the situation worrying because there are Brazilian pastors who have formed families with Angolan women.

The notification process is being carried out in phases, said Ivone Teixeira, adding that this Friday the pastor who was indicated for the province of Benguela was notified.

Last March, the Minister of Culture, Tourism and Environment, Jomo Fortunato, stated that the new local directorate of the UCKG is the formal interlocutor of the State.

Jomo Fortunato highlighted, in an interview to Angola's Public Television, that "there is no longer any conflict" within the UCKG, after the election, by the Angolan wing, of Bishop Valente Bizerra Luís, at the beginning of last February, putting an end to the reform commission, in office since November 2020.

The legitimacy of this general assembly has been contested by the previous direction of the UCKG Angola, which is linked to the Brazilian hierarchy, from which the dissident wing, now legitimized by the government after its deliberations were confirmed by INAR, left.

The UCKG has been involved in several controversies in Angola, after a group of dissidents broke away from the Brazilian board in November last year.

Tensions worsened in June with the seizure of temples by the reformist wing, meanwhile formed into a Reform Commission of Angolan Pastors, with an exchange of mutual accusations regarding the practice of illicit acts.

The Angolans, led by Bishop Valente Bezerra, claim that the decision to break with the Brazilian representation in Angola headed by Bishop Honorilton Gonçalves, loyal to founder Edir Macedo, was due to practices contrary to religion, such as the demand for the practice of vasectomy, chemical castration, racism, social discrimination, abuse of authority, in addition to the evasion of foreign currency abroad.

The allegations are denied by the UCKG Angola, which, for its part, accuses the dissidents of "xenophobic attacks" and assaults on pastors, and has also filed lawsuits against the dissidents.

The UCKG has previously accused the Angolan judicial authorities of making illegal seizures and attacking religious freedom.

Several lawsuits related to the UCKG Angola are currently in progress in the Angolan courts.

The conflict has led to the opening of criminal cases in Angola's Attorney General's Office and has reached the diplomatic sphere, with the Brazilian President, Jair Bolsonaro, asking his counterpart Joao Lourenço for guarantees of protection for the Brazilian pastors and the church's assets, with the Angolan head of state promising an "adequate treatment" of the matter in court.

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