Frontrunner Lula da Silva signs "letter of commitment" addressed to booming Christian community, saying he opposes abortion and vows to protect religious freedom, ahead of October 30 run-off.

"To me, life is sacred, the work of God the creator, and my commitment always has been and will be to protect it," Lula says. (AFP)

Veteran leftist Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has met with representatives of Brazil's booming Evangelical Christian community, seeking to woo votes from the key group, which largely backs his presidential election rival, incumbent Jair Bolsonaro.

During the meeting in Sao Paulo on Wednesday, Lula signed a "letter of commitment" addressed to Evangelicals, saying he opposes abortion and vows to protect religious freedom.

The former president (2003-2010), who leads in opinion polls for Brazil's October 30 runoff, has faced a smear campaign from Bolsonaro backers accusing him of plotting to close churches if elected.

He has also come under attack from Bolsonaro's camp over abortion, after saying in April it should be a "right" — then backtracking in the face of widespread backlash in the socially conservative country.

"Everyone knows there was never the slightest risk to churches when I was president. On the contrary," Lula said in the letter.

"My government will in no way act against religious freedom."

On the delicate subject of abortion — opposed by more than 70 percent of Brazilians in most circumstances, according to polls — the front-runner sought to assuage Evangelicals' fears.

"To me, life is sacred, the work of God the creator, and my commitment always has been and will be to protect it," he said.

"I am personally against abortion, and remind everyone that it is an issue to be decided by Congress, not the president."

READ MORE: Brazil's potential left win: a sign of public defiance, bad news for US

Political battlefield

Brazil currently bans abortion in all cases except rape, incest or risk to the mother's life.

Evangelicals are estimated to make up nearly one-third of Brazil's 214 million people.

Some 65 percent of them back Bolsonaro, compared to 31 percent for Lula, according to the latest poll from the Datafolha institute, released on Friday.

The same poll found Lula leading the run-off race with 53 percent of valid votes to 47 percent for Bolsonaro.

Religion has become a political battlefield amid the polarising campaign, with Bolsonaro regularly hitting the themes of God and Christianity and appearing alongside influential Evangelical pastors.

Lula called on religious leaders to keep churches out of the fray.

"If a pastor wants to talk politics, do it in the street, not in church," he said.

READ MORE: Bolsonaro, Lula get key endorsements ahead of Brazil run-off

Source: AFP