Wednesday, June 11, 2014

World Cup and Injustice

The World Cup of Football, or soccer, as the minority of fans calls it, will begin with it's first match tomorrow. Hundreds of thousands of soccer tourists are gathering in cities across Brazil to watch the planet's most popular game, and millions more will watch from virtually every country. Perhaps they shouldn't, even though this is being touted as a coup for a country which until recently has been viewed as part of the developing world.

We know that tens of thousands of poor Brazilians have been displaced from their favelas, the shanty towns they called home to make way for venues or to simply have the poverty swept from sight. Many workers have died during the construction of the various stadia, and critics are convinced that the debt for these white elephants will hamper the economy for years to come. One stadium is in the jungle city of Manaus and may be used only occasionally after the tournament. Public protests are often shut down by police.

The church of Christ in its various expressions has been condemning the injustice of Brazil hosting the cup. The Roman Catholic bishops have issued a statement cleverly mimicking the red card issued for violations on the field. Others denominations are working together to call attention to the dangers of sexual exploitation by tourists during the tournament:

A network of Brazilian churches and nonprofit groups has joined forces to form Bola na Rede or “Back of the Net” in English, a nationwide campaign alerting tourists to the dangers facing the country’s children. “Over the last three years, we’ve been preparing churches in the 12 cities, encouraging them to mobilize their congregations so they actively do something in the days leading up to and during the World Cup,” said Ronald Neptune, the national coordinator of Bola na Rede and a missionary with the United World Mission in Sao Paulo, referring to the 12 host cities.
“As Christians, we can’t just clap our hands and praise the Lord, we have to work to make a difference to the lives of the young people at risk,” he said. “We can be the eyes and ears on the streets and the motivating force that gets people out leafleting and speaking to tourists about how they can be vigilant to help protect our children.” On May 18, over 97,000 Christians took to the streets in Brazil’s host cities in a nationwide day of marches. Outside the World Cup stadium in Itaquerao, Sao Paulo, where the opening match between Brazil and Croatia kicks off on June 12, churchgoers gathered to protest peacefully with banners and posters. They then knelt in prayer for victims of sex abuse on the grass outside the stadium.  Were you aware of the concerns about Brazil hosting the World Cup?  Did you know that churches were amongst the leaders for the protests? Will this affect whether you follow the tournament?

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