Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro honored the memory of Simone Barreto Silva, a Brazilian national killed in a church during one of five attempted jihadist attacks in France on Thursday, in remarks warning the world to reject “Christophobia.”
Bolsonaro has risen to become the most prominent head of state campaigning against Christophobia, or the persecution of Christians due to their faith. In his remarks to the United Nations General Assembly in September, he warned of growing Christophobia around the world and urged the U.N. to act to protect Christian groups. At the same assembly, the prime minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan, demanded the U.N. enforce a global ban on anti-Islamic blasphemy.
While Bolsonaro himself is Christian, Christianity is not the state religion of Brazil. He has, however, been significantly more vocal against Christian persecution than the leaders of officially Christian states like Vatican City, Argentina, or Greece.
“She was there praying, this guy who detests Christians comes in,” Bolsonaro said during his broadcast, a regular Facebook live talk on Thursday night, referring to Barreto’s final moments. “We’re talking about Christophobia.”
“He stabbed this lady in there. We mourn the deaths of the three people,” he continued.
The killings occurred in the Basilica of Notre Dame of Nice, where Barreto, age 44, was praying when the suspect came in and stabbed multiple people. French media sources have identified the killer as a Tunisian immigrant named Brahim Aouissaoui. Subsequent reports indicated that the suspect may have had an accomplice. Police said he repeatedly shouted the slogan “allahu akbar,” which roughly translated to “Allah is superior to all,” while he attacked his victims. Jihadists often use this slogan while killing to cement the intention of their actions.
Barreto died trying to run into a neighboring restaurant, French police said, in an attempt to flee the church during the stabbing. Her last words were reportedly, “tell my family that I love them.”
Barreto, a native of the suburbs of Salvador, Brazil, lived in France and had three children. She was a French citizen and was working as a caretaker for the elderly, the Brazilian outlet Terça Livre reported, though she was also a trained cook.
The jihadist killed two others in the attack: an older woman praying at the church, who was “almost beheaded,” and a man identified as “Vincent,” who worked at the basilica.
“The Brazilian Government deplores and vehemently condemns the atrocious attack that took place today inside the Basilica of Notre Dame of Nice, in France, where a terrorist murdered three people,” Itamaraty, the Brazilian Foreign Ministry, said in an official statement.
“The Brazilian Government informs, with great regret, that one of the victims killed was a 44-year-old Brazilian woman, mother of three, residing in France,” the statement continued. “President Jair Bolsonaro, on behalf of the entire Brazilian nation, expresses his deep condolences to the family and friends of the citizen murdered in Nice, as well as to those of the other victims, and extends his solidarity to the French people and government.”
“At this moment, the Brazilian Government expresses in particular its solidarity with Christians and people of other denominations who suffer persecution and violence due to their belief,” the statement concluded.
France is currently in the midst of a wave of jihadist violence following the beheading of Samuel Paty, a schoolteacher, on October 16. Paty had used cartoons from the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo to teach a class on free speech – some of which featured haram depictions of Muhammad – prompting a grassroots campaign among Muslim parents to kill him. The killer in his case was identified as a teen from the Muslim Russian region of Chechnya.
French Police Swoop on 80+ Extremists Who Expressed Support for Paris Beheader https://t.co/V8Ch9AixIH
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) October 20, 2020
In response to the beheading, French President Emmanuel Macron award Paty the Legion of Honor, France’s highest award for civilians, posthumously, and asserted to the Muslim world, “we will never give up cartoons.” In solidarity, some French cities projected Charlie Hebdo cartoons on the sides of buildings in defiance. The magazine itself suffered a jihadist massacre in 2015 in response to refusing to stop printing its cartoons.
Macron’s response triggered condemnation of his dedication to free speech – not of the beheading – from the leaders of nations like Egypt, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Iran. Muslim protests have occurred in Bangladesh and India as well as the aforementioned countries calling for a boycott of France. France itself fielded at least five attempted jihadist attacks on Thursday, a Muslim holiday observing Muhammad’s birthday.
Bolsonaro has become one of the world’s leading voices against the persecution of Christians.
“Liberty is humankind’s greatest asset. I call upon the entire international community to protect religious liberty and fight against Christophobia,” the Brazilian president told the United Nations last month. “Peace cannot possibly be disassociated from security. Cooperation among people cannot possibly be disassociated from freedom. … Brazil is a Christian and conservative country and has family as its foundation.”