A prominent evangelical pastor in Brazil has been accused by federal authorities of running a slave labor farm, which some former workers have described as “Hell,” though his church denies the allegations.
The Washington Post reported on Saturday that Pastor Cícero Vicente de Araújo, who founded and runs the Evangelical Community of Jesus’ Everlasting Truth, has been caught up in a large money laundering and slave-owning scheme.
Officials are saying that some workers at a property called “Paradise Farm” in Minduri, which comes with banana and citrus fields in the hills of southeast Brazil, are the victims of human trafficking.
What is more, Araújo’s followers are said to have been coerced into handing over their savings and working as laborers at his nine farms and 17 businesses. At the farms, however, the people, many from vulnerable backgrounds, are allegedly paid little to no wages, and discouraged from speaking with their families.
At the same time, the pastor and other church officials were found to have built up a $30 million agribusiness empire.
“They called it paradise, but it was Hell,” said a former worker by the name of Lucineide Torres da Silva, 48, who lived and worked at the farm for nine years.
In February, authorities attempted to arrest Araújo, but he reportedly fled.
The Washington Post pointed out that the growing evangelical presence in Brazil has allowed many ministries to reach out and help the many impoverished people in the country, but that growth has also allowed for some to exploit the situation and take advantage of people.
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Source: Christian Post