- Population: 213.4 million
- Area: 8.5 million km2
- Climate: Tropical, Equatorial, Subtropical and semiarid
- Capital: Brasilia
- Currency: Real
- People: 47.4% European Descent, 43.4% Mixed Race, 7% African, 2.1% Asian, Indigenous 0.5%
- Main Language: Brazilian Portuguese
- Religion: 91% Christian (26% evangelical), 5% Animist/Spiritist, 4% Other faiths/none
Brazil occupies an immense area along the eastern coast of South America and includes much of the continent’s Interior region, sharing land borders with every country in South America except Ecuador and Chile. The factors of size, relief, climate, and natural resources make Brazil geographically diverse.
Following more than three centuries under Portuguese rule, Brazil peacefully gained its independence in 1822, maintaining a monarchical system of government until the abolition of slavery in 1888 and the subsequent proclamation of a republic by the military in 1889. Brazilian coffee exporters then politically dominated the country until 1930.
By far the largest and most populous country in South America, Brazil underwent more than half a century of populist and military government until 1985, when the military regime ceded power to civilian rulers.
Brazil continues to pursue industrial and agricultural growth and the development of its Interior. Exploiting vast natural resources and a large labour pool, it is today South America’s leading economic power and a regional leader.
Highly unequal income distribution and crime remain pressing problems. Meanwhile the 2016 impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff and investigations into her predecessor, Lula, have kept the issue of corruption in the spotlight.
Most of the population of Brazil is in the cities of the south-east and the north-east, and is made up of many racial and ethnic groups. During three centuries of Portuguese colonisation, Brazil received more than 700,000 Portuguese settlers and four million African slaves. The country has the largest population of African descent outside Africa.
Beginning in the late 19th century, Brazil opened its borders to immigration: people from over 60 countries migrated there. About five million European and Asian immigrants arrived between 1870 and 1953, most of them from Italy, Portugal, Spain, and Germany. In the early 20th century, people from Japan and the Middle-East also arrived.
Brazil has the largest population of Italians outside Italy, and of Japanese outside Japan, as well as the second largest population of Germans outside Germany (after only the USA). A characteristic of Brazil is the race mixing: most Brazilians have some degree of European, African, and Amerindian ancestry.
Religion is very diverse in Brazil, with a constitution which provides for freedom of religion. It is the largest Roman Catholic nation in the world. The formal link between the state and Roman Catholicism was severed in the late 19th century; however, the Catholic Church has continued to exert an influence on national affairs.
The number of Protestants is growing. Until 1970, the majority of Brazilian Protestants were members of ‘traditional churches’, mostly Lutherans, Presbyterians and Baptists. Since then, numbers of Pentecostal and Neo-Pentecostal churches have increased significantly.
Traditional African beliefs, brought by slaves, have blended with Catholicism to create Afro-Brazilian religions such as Macumba, Candomblé, and Umbanda. Amerindians practise a wide variety of indigenous religions that vary from group to group.
Latin Link members in Brazil are involved in a wide range of activities, including theological education, holistic community development, church planting, helping vulnerable children and young people, street ministry, working with university students, air transportation and sports.
Despite the recent economic advances in Brazil, it is still a country of great need, both spiritually and physically.
Many possibilities for service are available, depending on the expertise you have. For example, a trainer of Christian Counsellors could contribute to the development of counselling in Brazil. Student workers would be welcome in many university cities. Specialists in community development could also find a role working in conjunction with local churches.
Meanwhile, people with entrepreneurial business skills and an ability to work with investment capital are needed to start small businesses providing ethical employment in deprived areas. Other openings could include desktop publishing or placements for sports coaches.
For more information, please see the Opportunities page of our International website (this will open a new tab).