In Brazil, where cultists routinely sacrifice goats and chickens, scandalized citizens are violently suppressing the important sect of the Korean evangelist, the Rev. Sun Myung Moon.
In a wave of violence this month, angry mobs stoned or sacked Moon churches in seven cities. Police protection saved Moon temples in nine other cities from attack.
Hurling sticks, stones, bottles, eggs, oranges and tomatoes, about 2,000 students in Sao Paulo laid siege last Thursday to the Brazilian headquarters of Moon's Unification Church. Police took 99 cult members into protective custody, but a group of demonstrators returned the next day to loot and set fire to the church.
In Rio and Brasilia, crowds broke into Unification centers, forcing members to flee. In Belo Horizonte, relatives of cult followers marched outside the city's Unification Church chanting: "King, king, king, Christ is our king," and "Down with the monster Moon, destroyer of families."
Brazil has a tradition of religious tolerance and most observers agree that the sudden violence here stems from a series of sensationalized reports on the group shown this month on "Fantastco," Brazil's most widely watched weekly television program.
One recent segment showed shouting fathers and weeping mothers, and an announcer breathlessly headlined: "News that threatens all Brazilians: preassured to leave the United States, Rev. Moon is preparing to come to Brazil. . . . Moon is the leader of an immense sect of fanatics spread throughout the world. . . . The sect is accused of enticing minors, preaching the separation of families, and illicitly exploiting the work of indoctrinated youths." A few hours after the program ended, youths began stong the Sao Paulo Unifications headquarters.
Brazilian authorities are also pressing Moon's followers.
Last week, juvenile court judges across Brazil prohibitied minors from joining the sect and required 18- to 21-year-olds to obtain written parental permission before participating.
Rio's district attorney called for a special prosecutor to look into the cult, and Romeu Tuima, head of Sao Paulo's political police, has launched a nationwide investigation of the church, registered here as the Association of the Holy Spirit for the Unification of World Christianity. a
Tuma has threatened to indict the church's Brazilian president, Cesar Zaduski, -- on charges of fraud, illegal constraint, and "reducing [other] to the condition analogous to that of a slave."
Moon himself reportedly applied twice over the last two years for tourist visas to visit Brazil, most recently in June, Both requests, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, were denied. A spokesman said the ministry is not obliged to explain or justify visa denials.
Before the violence broke out, Zaduski estimated that the church had 60 branches and 5,000 members spread across Brazil. Membership has roughly doubled since the church officially registered last year, and it recently started a newspaper.
Brazil's constitution guarantees religious freedom. Nominally the world's most populous Roman Catholic country, Brazil has inherited from Africa a dazzling variety of spirtist cults and sects. Nationwide, there are approximately 300,000 spirit centers -- which would make Brazil the largest stronghold of spiritism in the world.
The clean-cut, anticommunist Unification missionaries ran into trouble here when they infringed on an untouchable Latin institution -- the family. Moon converts frequently cut family ties and devote their lives to the cult.
"The Moon sect . . . preaches detachment of affections, cultural breakdown, generational conflict, and the destruction of the family," Luciano Mendes de Almeida, secretary general of the powerful National Conference of Brazilian Bishops, said recently.
One mother of a convert told a television interviewer: "My boy was good, honest, hardworking, without vices; he had many friends. Now I see my son destroyed -- they have taken his mind and replaced it with one so dumb, so dirty -- mother, father, home have all died for him. Do you think a mother is happy to see her son destroyed, dead?"
As in the United States, B razilians also complain of the cult's alledgedly high-pressure indoctrination techniques, often directed at impressionable minors.
Aurelio Jose Paiva, of Volta Redonda, left the Unifications Church after seven days and described the initiation process. "It was from six in the morning until midnight, continuously listening to their talks, their theology. Then at 4 a.m., they woke us up for physical education. You can't have contact with the outside world -- it was really brainwashing."
Oscarina Goncalves, of Londrina, Parana also left the cult and she recently charged: "Really there is nothing of Christ. He [Moon] is only a person who uses others to work for free. We used to go out on the street selling cookies, saying it was for shelters, to help poor children, but in reality it doesn't help anyone. The money all goes to Rev. Moon."
Brazilian parents of Unification converts complain that their children are "vassals of a multinational of faith," and evidence indicates the church has intended to expand further into the continent.
Barred from entering France, Moon is being investigated by the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service for alleged irregularities in his residency status.