Brazil’s Bolsonaro turns to prayer in coronavirus crisis

Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro leaves the Alvorada Palace, amid coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Brasilia, Brazil

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, agreeing to a request from evangelical Christians, said on Friday that he was calling for a national day of fasting and prayer this Sunday to “free Brazil from this evil” coronavirus epidemic.

As the death toll mounts in the country, Bolsonaro met with Pentecostal evangelical pastors outside his official residence. Evangelicals have been among the right-wing leader’s most faithful supporters.

“With the pastors and religious leaders we will call for a day of fasting by Brazilians so that Brazil can free itself from this evil as soon as possible,” he later said on radio station Jovem Pan.

On Friday, the country’s coronavirus deaths increased to 359 from 299, while confirmed cases jumped to 9,056.

Bolsonaro has become increasingly isolated politically as he continues to rail against state and municipal shutdowns, calling them economically disastrous responses to an over-hyped risk.

The idea of fasting and prayer gained momentum on Friday among Bolsonaro supporters and evangelical preachers on social media.

“Brazil is in a serious crisis. The forces of evil are rising against a God-fearing Christian president and family defender. Sunday will be a day of fasting,” Congressman Marco Feliciano, an evangelical pastor, said in a Twitter post.

Pastor Silas Malafaia, a leader of Brazil’s largest Pentecostal church, the Assembly of God, proposed on social media that the fast begin at midnight on Saturday and last until midday Sunday.

A former army captain turned politician, Bolsonaro was raised a Roman Catholic and was re-baptized by an evangelical pastor in the River Jordan in 2016 in Israel, as he began to plan a run for president.

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