SAO PAULO - Brazil's main commercial centre, Sao Paulo, came to a standstill on Thursday, when it became the site of the biggest annual Christian movement in the nation. The May 26th 'March for Jesus' brought together over two million people, who marched along a pre-planned, one-mile route beginning at 10a.m.
They started near the University of Sao Paulo's school of Medicine and walked to the modern, skyscraper-lined Avenida Paulista, stopping where the crowd would gather for the closing program.
"The purpose of this march, and of all the other ones we have organised over the years, is to conquer Brazil for Jesus Christ," said Camila Nascimento, a spokeswoman for the evangelical Reborn in Christ Church, the main organiser of the event.
One stage was set up for speeches and musical presentations that would close the event. Some brief speeches emphasised the reason for the event: The love of God and His plan of salvation in Christ were transmitted to the multitudes. In addition, 31 Christian artists of various musical styles performed for the worshipers.
The event, which was trasmitted live to portuguese speaking nations of Africa, was also seen by the entire population of Sao Paulo through broadcaster TV Aberta (Open TV), cable television, satelite and radio stations.
Event coverage was transmitted to the entire nation live by TV Aberta on Rede Gospel Television. A team of reporters spread out along the march route, and backstage providing interviews with participants who testified about the transformation they had experienced through the gospel of Christ.
Although the closing show was scheduled to start by late afternoon, when the march began at 10a.m., a great number of people were already near the end of the march route, anxiously waiting, praying, and encouraging the team workers that were finishing up the last bits and pieces for the stage presentations.
The Rebirth Foundation (Fundação Renascer), which organised the event, had originally estimated that close two million people would take part in the event.
However, by 12 noon, before official figures had yet been released, a police spokesman said to Rede Gospel Television that the sum of people waiting for the show and those taking part in the march at that moment had already surpassed two million.
The spokesperson also said that a great number of people would still be coming, and concluded that the count would certainly exceed expectations, which would make the March for Jesus the biggest event which has ever taken place on Avenida Paulista. For years, it has been the main stage for the most important movements in the country.
"In all the years of work in movements along Avenida Paulista, I had never seen such a huge yet peaceful crowd as this," declared the spokesperson to Rede Gospel.
The Mayor of Sao Paulo, Jose Serra, who had supported the event, was also surprised at the large crowds, the order and the organization of the event.
During an interview with Rede Gospel, Serra welcomed the church and family groups who had traveled from other states of Brazil to participate on the event in Sao Paulo. He also thanked the Church for its help to the people in the area of social care, by showing an interest in continuing to "unite forces in order to meet the needs of those who most need care in the city of Sao Paulo."
In the interview, Serra declared, "I hope that, through this great gathering, we may strenghten our spiritual bonds."
He ended by saying: "In the peace of God I bid you farewell, wishing all a joyful gathering of faith, charity and love."
The Marcha Para Jesus is part of the worldwide event known as "Jesus Day," which happens annually on different dates all over the world. The first of its kind was held in London, England, in 1987, by an initiative of pastor Roger Forster and the singers and composers Graham Kendrick, Gerald Coates and Lynn Green. Its purpose was to show the people that the Christian Church is not confined and is not limited to the temple walls, but that it is alive, active and open to all society.
A few years later the event spread out to other countries and aqcuired huge proportions worldwide. Every year, millions of Christians from all around the world unite together to march on Jesus Day, praising God and exalting Him before the whole world, declaring that Christ is Lord of their lives and of their countries.
In Brazil, the first March was held in the year of 1993, starting the march route at Avenida Paulista. On the ocasion, not many christian denominations took part in it, since it was still a novelty and had not been broadly divulgated. Since then, the event has been organised by Fundação Renascer, a charity organisation supported by the Evangelical Church Renascer em Cristo (To Be Born Again in Christ).
A milestone in the history of the movement in Brazil took place in 1997. On that occasion, in the city of Sao Paulo alone, more than 2 million Christians gathered. They were celebrating a because the March had become a part of the official city's calendar during the previous year, in September 1996.
On Thursday, 12 years after the event began in Brasil, the "Marcha Para Jesus" returned to Avenida Paulista as a huge event which was granted the authority to gather at the most important commercial centre of Latin America's largest metropolis.
It mobilised millions of participating Brazilians to sing in unison the refrain, "Nós declaramos, Jesus, tu és Senhor, és Senhor de São Paulo e do Brasil." - "We declare, O Jesus, you are the Lord, you are the Lord of Sao Paulo and of Brazil."
Christian Today Correspondent