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Brazil church wins court battle to remain open despite coronavirus pandemic

by Ruth Sax

A Brazilian evangelical church has won a court battle to remain open despite warnings that large gatherings would spread the coronavirus.

Currently Brazil has 1,546 confirmed cases according to the latest health ministry figures released on Sunday.

The court ruling came days after a prominent bishop from another evangelical church told followers not to worry about the pandemic because the devil was trying to create fear.

Many evangelical and Catholic churches remain open in Brazil, despite many church leaders around the world closing churches to help slow down the spread of the virus.

Even before Thursday's court ruling, Pastor Silas Malafia, head of the Assembly of God Victory in Christ church - and an ally of President Jair Bolsonaro - said his church would stay open.

"If everything closes, there will be a little door open in my church and I will be there," Malafia said on Thursday.

More than 1,500 people attended a service at Malafia's huge church in Rio de Janeiro, according to Alexandre Camargo, a pastor at the church. "It is a spiritual hospital for us," he said. The church is not filled to capacity, hand sanitizer is provided and worshippers stay more than one metre apart, he told The Guardian.

Brazil's biggest evangelical church, the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God, is also still holding services, according to The Guardian (and providing soap and water and hand sanitizer, telling people to keep their distance and avoiding prayers involving physical contact).

Its leader, Bishop Edir Macedo, told followers not to worry about coronavirus in a WhatsApp video: "There is an economic interest behind this whole coronavirus campaign," he said, claiming a campaign of fear had been created by the devil.

"Satan works with fear," Macedo said.

The death toll from the coronavirus in Brazil rose to at least 25 from 18 the day before, a rise of 39 per cent.

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