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The Tragic Murder of Candomblé Priestess Mãe Bernadete: A Reflection on Religious Freedom in Brazil

In the heart of Brazil, a nation known for its vibrant culture and diverse religious landscape, a tragedy unfolded in August that sent shockwaves through the global community. Mãe Bernadete, a revered priestess of the Candomblé faith, was brutally murdered. This horrific event not only highlighted the vulnerabilities faced by religious minorities in Brazil but also underscored the importance of international solidarity and the fight for religious freedom.

Mãe Bernadete was a revered priestess of Afro-Brazilian religion and a community leader in Salvador de Bahía, Brazil.
Mãe Bernadete was a revered priestess of Afro-Brazilian religion and a community leader in Salvador de Bahía, Brazil.

Briefing by the Director of Brazil’s Rede Liberdade

In the aftermath of the tragedy, the director of Brazil’s Rede Liberdade, a prominent organization dedicated to religious freedom and human rights, briefed the International Religious Freedom (IRF) Office on the circumstances surrounding Mãe Bernadete's murder. The briefing aimed to shed light on the factors that led to this heinous act and to discuss the broader implications for religious freedom in Brazil.

While the exact motives behind the murder remain under investigation, the briefing highlighted the challenges faced by the Candomblé community in Brazil. Historically, Candomblé, an Afro-Brazilian religion that blends African traditions with Roman Catholicism, has faced discrimination and persecution. Its practitioners have been marginalized, and its rituals often misunderstood or stigmatized.

The International Response and Solidarity

The IRF Office expressed its deep condolences to Brazil’s Rede Liberdade and the broader Candomblé community. The loss of Mãe Bernadete, a pillar of strength and a beacon of spiritual guidance, is deeply felt not only in Brazil but also within the global community that advocates for religious freedom.

The IRF Office affirmed its unwavering support for Brazil’s resilient Candomblé community. In these trying times, international solidarity is paramount. The global community must come together to ensure that religious minorities are protected and that acts of violence based on religious beliefs are vehemently condemned.

Mãe Bernadete: A Legacy That Lives On

Mãe Bernadete's life was a testament to the power of faith, resilience, and community. As a priestess, she played a pivotal role in guiding her community, preserving the rich traditions of Candomblé, and advocating for the rights of its practitioners.

Her untimely death is a stark reminder of the challenges faced by religious leaders worldwide. However, in her memory, the Candomblé community and its allies are more determined than ever to fight for religious freedom and to ensure that such tragedies do not recur.


The murder of Mãe Bernadete is not just a loss for the Candomblé community but a wake-up call for the world. It underscores the urgent need for greater understanding, tolerance, and protection for religious minorities everywhere.

As the global community mourns the loss of Mãe Bernadete, there is a collective resolve to ensure that her legacy lives on. Through continued advocacy, education, and solidarity, the hope is to build a world where every individual, regardless of their faith, can practice their religion without fear. Mãe Bernadete will not be forgotten, and her spirit will continue to inspire countless others in the fight for religious freedom.


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