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Brazil - Religion

According to the 2010 census by the Geographic and Statistical Institute of Brazil, the country has an area of 3,287,612 square miles and a population of 190.7 million. Nearly all major religious groups are present. Many citizens worship in more than one church or participate in the rituals of more than one religion. Public schools are required to offer religious instruction, but neither the constitution nor legislation defined the parameters. Religious instruction is optional for students. Each school defines the religious curriculum, usually in agreement with parent councils. The law prohibits public subsidies to schools operated by religious organizations.

The 2000 census indicated that approximately 74 percent of the population identified itself as Roman Catholic. Approximately 15.4 percent of the population is Protestant, an estimated 74 percent of whom are Pentecostal or evangelical, including the Assemblies of God, Christian Congregation of Brazil, Universal Church of the Kingdom of God, the Quadrangular Gospel, God is Love, Maranata, Brazil for Christ, House of the Blessing, and New Life. Lutherans, Presbyterians, Baptists, Seventh-day Adventists, Methodists, and Congregationalists account for most of the remaining Protestants and are centered in the south.

In the 2000 census, 199,645 residents identified themselves as belonging to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons); however, the Mormons currently list their membership at approximately one million.

According to the 2000 census, there were 214,873 Buddhists, 2,905 Hindus, and 151,080 adherents of other eastern religions. Japanese-Brazilians, to a limited extent, practiced Shintoism. The census reported 17,088 adherents of indigenous religious beliefs.

Members of African and syncretic religious groups such as Candomblé totaled a reported 127,582, while followers of Umbanda totaled 397,431. There were no statistics on the number of followers of Xango or of Macumba; however, the census indicated that members of Afro-Brazilian religious groups totaled 0.3 percent of the population. In July 2010 the Racial Equality Act was signed into law and for the first time explicitly provides for the right to practice religions of African origin. Additionally, members of religions of African origin are granted access to religious professionals in hospitals, prisons, and other institutions.

The census reported 25,889 practitioners of Spiritualism; however, others estimated that followers of Spiritualism, mainly Kardecists – adherents of the doctrine expounded by Frenchman Allan Kardec in the 19th century – constituted approximately 1.4 percent of the population. An estimated 7.4 percent of the population does not practice any religion.

Reliable figures on the number of Muslims do not exist. The 2000 census reported 27,239 Muslims; however, the Federation of Muslim Associations of Brazil estimates that there are 1.5 million Muslims in the country. There are significant Muslim communities in the cities of São Paulo, Curitiba, and Foz do Iguazu (Argentina-Brazil-Paraguay triborder area) as well as in smaller cities in the states of Paraná, Rio Grande do Sul, São Paulo, and Rio de Janeiro. The community is overwhelmingly Sunni and almost completely assimilated into broader society. The recent Shia immigrants gravitate to small insular communities in São Paulo, Curitiba, and Foz do Iguazu. Sunni and Shia Islam are practiced predominantly by immigrants who arrived during the past 25 years from Lebanon, Syria, and Palestine. Conversions to Islam increased during the reporting period among non-Arab citizens. There are approximately 80 to 120 mosques, Islamic religious centers, and Islamic associations, many of which are inactive.

According to the Jewish Confederation of Brazil, there are more than 120,000 Jews, 65,000 of whom reside in São Paulo State and 40,000 in Rio de Janeiro State. Many other cities have smaller Jewish communities.

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