Brazilian Sect Will Not Yield

Agencia de Informacao de Mocambique (Maputo)/June 3, 2004

The Brazilian evangelical sect, the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God (IURD), has not accepted the decision of the Maputo municipal authorities to suspend the building of a cathedral on Julius Nyerere Avenue, in the city's plush Polana suburb The city council found irregularities in the building licence, granted by the previous mayor Artur Canana. It feared that an enormous new church, with space for almost 4,000 worshippers, thrust into what is supposed to be a residential area, would cause enormous traffic jams, and intolerable amounts of noise.

The chairperson of the IURD board of directors, Jose Guerra, cited in Thursday's issue of the Maputo daily "Noticias", said that the IURD would not drop its intention of building the church, but is open to negotiations for changes in the original plan, including reducing the size of the building.

Guerra argues that, prior to acquiring the rights to the three plots of land on which the church would be built, the IURD consulted technicians of the Building and Urbanization Municipal Directorate (DCU).

This study found nothing against the idea, but in a subsequent step, the Environment Ministry noted that the church would be a source of noise pollution, and advised the IURD to install sound-proofing.

"On 20 June last year, we received, on the site, a delegation from the Environment Ministry, headed by deputy Minister Francisco Mabjaia, accompanied by the then mayor Artur Canana who, after hearing a thorough explanation of the project recommended some changes", said Guerra.

He added that on 31 October the municipal authorities gave the go ahead to the project, which implied demolishing the buildings already on the site. The same document called for the building of a car park with capacity for about 300 vehicles.

This does not really help the IURD's case. Indeed it strengthen's the City Council's argument, since it admits that at certain times hundreds of vehicles will be added to the flow of traffic along Julius Nyerere Avenue, which is already one of the most heavily used thoroughfares in the city.

"After all our negotiations with the DCU, we are told that the decision taken by the former mayor has been annulled, because the new municipal authorities found irregularities in the project", Guerra complained.

He added that his church members met with the newly elected mayor, Eneas Comiche, to discuss the issue, and to inform him that they will appeal against any suspension of the project.

Guerra argues that the project was licensed by a sovereign body, not by an individual, and all responsibility should fall on the municipal authorities, not simply on the shoulders of Artur Canana.

"We are open to negotiations, and we say that we can accept any changes, including the reduction of the church's capacity, but we will never abandon that place," he said.

The IURD has a large following, perhaps because of the flamboyant nature of its services, which include vividly performed exorcisms, and assorted phoney miracles. None of the cases of sick people undergoing amazing cures at IURD services have been independently verified by trained medical personnel.

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