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Brazil wants African religions in Rio’s athletes village

Religions of African origin should be represented in the ecumenical center of the athletes village for the Rio de Janeiro Games, Brazilian federal public defenders have told city hall and Olympic organizers.

Public defender Edison Santana told The Associated Press on Monday that his recommendation is based on the fact that only Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism and Buddhism are currently included.

Rio Games organizers said other services could be provided, but so far haven’t replied officially to the public defenders.

Santana said the recommendation is a way to settle the issue without a lawsuit and that organizers have 10 days to respond.

“None of the faiths chosen to be in the athletes village comes from Africa, and that bothered followers of those religions in Brazil,” Santana said. “I am sure we will come to a reasonable solution, it is not a complicated thing to do. But we will take action if necessary.”

Organizers said in a statement that there won’t be religious exclusion at the games.

“The interreligious center of the village will be open to leaders of different religions as long as it is requested by an athlete,” the statement said.

Official figures from 2010 show that out of 200 million inhabitants Brazil has almost 600,000 followers of African religions, such as Candomble, which was developed in the 19th century by Brazil’s slave populations. Santana said the recommendation is based on religions of African origin, but it also goes for other smaller faiths as well.

About 10,500 athletes are expected at the Olympics, from Aug.5 to 21. The vast majority of those will stay at the athletes village.

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