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Members pray as prisoners riot in Brazil

SAO PAULO, BRAZIL — Four days of gang attacks and revolts in 70 jails across the Brazilian state of Sao Paulo claimed more than 80 lives and sent church members to their knees in prayer. “In 21 years of living in Brazil, we have never encountered such a situation,” J. Randal Matheny, a missionary in São José dos Campos, posted on his Web site, www.forthright.net, on May 15.
Brazilian authorities blame a criminal faction known as First Command of the Capital for the mid-May attacks, which began after many members of the gang were jailed. Riots in the state’s prisons spilled over into the streets of the city of Sao Paulo, with a population of 18 million.
Missionary Gordon Dabbs said members of his congregation are concerned that the violence will reach prisons in their city, Rio de Janeiro.
“One of our members works at the huge penitentiary here in Rio. He’s pretty scared,” Dabbs said.
Matheny added, “As far as I know … we are not in any immediate danger. Nor is it a moment to think of evacuation. But we are keeping our heads low.”
June 1, 2006

Filed under: International Staff Reports

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