Angolan justice ordered the closure and seizure of all the temples of the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God (IURD) in Angola, with the sealing process to be done "gradually", a police source told Lusa.
"By order of the Public Ministry, all IURD temples in the national territory are seized and closed, except that the sealing process is being carried out gradually," said the source, adding that there are 211 in the Angolan capital alone. temples.
The IURD in Angola today declared itself "surprised" with the order to close four of its temples during the service, adding that none of them were in the batch of seven buildings seized by the Attorney General's Office in August and classified the police operation as “Disproportionate and excessive”.
Speaking to Lusa, a police source said that the temples are seized and will be closed. "Consequently, while the process is taking place, they cannot hold services," said the same source, adding that "so that no more doubts are raised about it, the parties will be notified in the next few days, to clarify the situation."
This is the first weekend that religious services in Luanda have resumed since March, when the state of emergency in Angola was declared due to the covid-19 pandemic.
In a statement sent to Lusa, the IURD said today that it was "surprised" by the arrival of the police at the temples of Kilamba, Estalagem, Km 30 and Samba, and that their closure was decreed, despite the fact that the agents are not "armed with any supporting documentation or mandate ”.
The IURD claimed that the police acted "in a truculent and excessive manner, surrounding members and faithful who, at the time, were exercising their right to freedom of worship" and underlines that there was no legal impediment or judicial mandate to prevent worship in those temples , “Because they were not arrested or sealed by the Attorney General's Office (PGR)”.
In August, the Angolan PGR seized seven IURD temples in Luanda (Alvalade, Maculusso, Morro Bento, Patriota, Benfica, Cazenga and Viana), as part of a criminal case for alleged practices of crimes of criminal association, tax fraud and illicit export of capital.
The IURD points out, in the same statement, that some bishops and pastors were taken to a police station without knowing “the real reason for such an act”, having been released after making statements.
According to the IURD, agents will only have informed “that there was an 'orientation' that Universal's temples should not be open” and, therefore, would be “in disobedience”.
The IURD has been involved in several controversies in Angola, after a group of dissidents left the Brazilian leadership in November last year.
Tensions intensified in June with the taking of temples by the reformist wing, meanwhile constituted in a Commission for the Reform of Angolan Pastors, with an exchange of mutual accusations regarding the practice of illegal acts.
Angolans, led by Bishop Valente Bezerra, affirm that the decision to break with the Brazilian representation in Angola headed by Bishop Honorilton Gonçalves, faithful to the founder Edir Macedo, was due to practices contrary to religion, such as the requirement to practice vasectomy, castration chemistry, racism practices, social discrimination, abuse of authority, in addition to the evasion of foreign currency abroad.
The allegations are denied by IURD Angola, which in turn accuses dissidents of “xenophobic attacks” and assaults on pastors and has also brought legal proceedings against dissidents.
IURD Angola previously accused the Angolan judicial authorities of having made illegal apprehensions and undermining religious freedom.
At the moment, several lawsuits related to IURD Angola are underway in the Angolan courts.
The conflict gave rise to the opening of criminal proceedings in the PGR of Angola and rose to the diplomatic sphere, with the Brazilian President, Jair Bolsonaro, asking his counterpart João Lourenço for guarantees of protection of Brazilian pastors and of the Church's heritage, with the chief of Angolan State promised an “appropriate treatment” of the matter in court.