Brazil is a vast country with a warm tropical climate and an ethnically varied and hospitable people. Often regarded as the largest Catholic country in the world, Brazil is also the birthplace of many cults from a variety of religious movements. The earliest significant Muslim presence in Brazil was apparently established several centuries ago with the arrival of thousands of black West African Muslim slaves.
The first great Arab immigration took place towards the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th centuries. However, this immigration was composed mainly of Orthodox Christian Arabs from Lebanon and Syria.
The second Arabic wave of immigration arrived about 40 years ago, bringing a large concentration of Muslims. The majority were involved in a variety of small- to large scale commercial activities.
Today, Brazil has a population of about 180 million, including several million people from an Arabic background. While most of them are at least nominally Christian, there are several hundred thousand Muslims (including a significant number of illegal aliens). Some estimates suggest that there are possibly over one million Muslims in Brazil, but accurate statistics are unavailable.
The Growth of Islam in Brazil
The first mosque in Brazil was built during the middle of the last century. This one gave rise to many others scattered all over the country. The region of Paran near Paraguay has the largest concentration of Muslims, followed by the city of São Paulo. Indeed, Brazil has become a hub for Islam in Latin America. During the past 30 years, Islam has succeeded in making a place for itself in Brazilian society by building not only mosques, but also libraries, arts centres, and schools and also by funding newspapers.
In addition, conversions to Islam are multiplying, especially among women who marry a Muslim and so take on the religion of their husband when they say their vows. Now, evangelical Christian Brazilians are mobilizing to face the growing Islamic presence, though not in sufficient numbers.
Some missionaries are working full-time to proclaim the Gospel to Muslims. The pressure on missionaries is enormous, particularly in large cities where Muslims have a significant presence. Despite these difficulties, the work is starting to bear fruit. A number of former Muslims have become enthusiastic missionaries. Some are working in Brazil, but some have returned to their homelands as witnesses, despite the threat of persecution and various restrictions.
Prayer for the Muslims of Brazil
* Pray that Brazilian Christians will have a greater desire to know more about Islam and the means of effectively evangelizing Muslims. Christian friendship evangelization seems to be the method which seems to bear the most fruit. Love and appreciation can dissolve the hardest heart.
* Pray for the vital ministry of the full-time missionaries working among Muslims in Brazil.
* Pray that Muslim-background believers will be able to deal with the opposition coming from their families, close relatives and friends while they continue to proclaim the Gospel.
Background on Brazil (World Factbook)
Following three centuries under the rule of Portugal, Brazil became an independent nation in 1822 and a republic in 1889. By far the largest and most populous country in South America, Brazil overcame more than half a century of military intervention in the governance of the country when in 1985 the military regime peacefully ceded power to civilian rulers. Brazil continues to pursue industrial and agricultural growth and development of its interior. Exploiting vast natural resources and a large labor pool, it is today South America’s leading economic power and a regional leader. Highly unequal income distribution remains a pressing problem.
Economy of Brazil
Characterized by large and well-developed agricultural, mining, manufacturing, and service sectors, Brazil’s economy outweighs that of all other South American countries and is expanding its presence in world markets. Consumer and investor confidence revived and GDP growth returned to positive in 2010, boosted by an export recovery. Brazil’s strong growth and high interest rates make it an attractive destination for foreign investors.
Statistics on Brazil
Population: 201,009,622 (July 2013) World Rank #5
Life Expectancy at Birth: 72.79 years. World Rank #124
Ethnic groups: white 53.7%, mulatto (mixed white and black) 38.5%, black 6.2%, other (includes Japanese, Arab, Amerindian) 0.9%, unspecified 0.7%
Religions: Roman Catholic (nominal) 73.6%, Protestant 15.4%, Spiritualist 1.3%, Bantu/voodoo 0.3%, other 1.8%, unspecified 0.2%, none 7.4%
Languages: Portuguese (official and most widely spoken language); note – less common languages include Spanish (border areas and schools), German, Italian, Japanese, English, and a large number of minor Amerindian languages
School Life Expectancy: 14 years
About Islam in Brazil – Video
A video blogger discusses Islam in Brazil.