Disarmament drive in Sao Paulo churches yields 271 firearms


SAO PAULO — Nineteen parishes in Sao Paulo, Brazil, opened their doors to collect guns and ammunition as part of the city-wide Religions United for Disarmament campaign that collected 271 firearms and 173 rounds of ammunition during nine days.

The weapons were collected during the World Week for Disarmament in late October under the direction of the Sao Paulo Metropolitan Civil Guard, the city’s police force.

The campaign promoted by the I Am for Peace Institute was organized with the cooperation of a variety of religious houses of worship, including Buddhist temples, Jewish synagogues and evangelical churches in an attempt to reduce the number of firearms on the streets. Each worship site accepted the weapons for two or three days. People turned in the weapons anonymously, with no questions asked.

In connection with the campaign, Cardinal Odilio Pedro Scherer of Sao Paulo called for tighter laws controlling the development of toys that push children toward violence.

“We have seen the tragic use of firearms in our schools. This is certainly an imitation of adult attitudes,” the cardinal said in a statement.

He also suggested that stronger action is needed to control the illegal entry of firearms into Brazil and to limit firearm use so that weapons do not end up in the hands of criminals.

“Arms trafficking is one of the most profitable illegal activities in the world today,” he said.

The results of the campaign pleased organizers, who said the collection yielded more firearms than a similar effort in 2009, when 251 weapons were turned in.

“The campaign was very positive,” said Father Gilmar Jose da Silva, pastor of St. Anthony do Pari Church, whose parish collected 35 firearms over three days.

“This kind of partnership among city officials, the archdiocese and the institute should occur more often,” he said.

The office of the Sao Paulo public security secretary reported that firearms were involved in nearly two-thirds of the city’s 1,189 homicides in 2010.

The I Am for Peace Institute reported that most weapons used by criminals were manufactured and sold legally in Brazil, but that many are either stolen or sold illegally, then used to commit crimes.