Tuesday, July 1, 2014

World Cup: a dark side and a higher goal

This summer, eyes will be focussed on Brazil, host nation for the FIFA World Cup and generally considered a top spot for tourism.

  • The fifth largest country in the world
  • Capital city: Brasilia
  • Language: Portuguese
  • Population: 190 million
  • Urban population: 84%
  • Currency: Real
  • Coastline: 4,500 miles
  • Contains the Amazon rainforest, the worlds largest jungle
  • Colonised by Portugal in 1530
  • Won the World Cup five times, more than any other country in the world

But theres a darker side to Brazil that many wont see this summer. Look closer and youll see thousands of children being forced into prostitution, sometimes by their own families. Millions more live in poverty and at risk of gang violence and drug trafficking.

The problem of child prostitution in northeast Brazil:
  • There are half a million children involved in the sex industry in Brazil (UNICEF)
  • 46% of children live in extreme poverty i.e. less than $1 a day
  • The average age of children forced into prostitution is 10 years old
  • Every eight minutes a child or teenager is raped in Brazil (UNICEF)
  • Northeast Brazil is quickly becoming the new sex capitalof the world, since the 2004 tsunami in Asia

Church Missionary Society mission partners Andy and Rose Roberts are working to bring the light of Jesuslove into these shadows. For four years (2008-2012) they worked at a project called My Fathers House, a safe haven for at-risk boys in Olinda, northeast Brazil.
One day they came across three sisters, aged 8, 10 and 12, whose mother had sold them into prostitution. In helping these girls as much as they could, Andy and Rose discovered there were no local Christian organisations caring for at-risk girls. So they decided to pioneer a new ministry called ReVive International.
One of the goals of ReVive is to establish safe houses, where vulnerable girls can experience the healing love of Jesus and recover from trauma. With help from generous supporters, Andy and Rose were able to purchase and refurbish a local house and they have just welcomed their first young girl into safety. Ana* is 13 years old. The ReVive team found her sleeping rough on the street. She told us she had run away from a government project after a boy had tried to abuse her,Andy said. We took her to the child welfare office, who in turn took her to a judge and then finally escorted her to the ReVive house. Shes settled in well so far and we hope and pray she finds peace.
As you watch the World Cup and root for your team, CMS is asking all of us to root for these children, that they will be shown hope through Jesus. CMS was established in 1799 by William Wilberforce and others campaigning to end the slave trade. More than 200 years later, some CMS mission partners are still fighting to end exploitation, trafficking and abuse. UNICEF estimates that in Brazil alone, more than half a million children are working in the sex industry. As Andy Roberts says, If that doesnt disturb us, theres something wrong with us.

So as we watch the World Cup, either enjoying the tournament or frustrated by the wall to wall coverage, please remember those for whom this World Cup will mean nothing to their slavery.