While the buzz of city life continued around them, a solemn procession of individuals strode across the streets of downtown Brasília. The “Play in Favor of Life – Denounce Human Trafficking” March took place on the eve of the opening game of the World Cup to raise awareness about the risk of exploitation during mega-events. Bathed in the patriotic glow of yellow and green colored lights, the Esplanada dos Ministérios, the political promenade running through the heart of Brazil’s capital, provided a sharp contrast to the white flags of the demonstration, which consisted of many local youth, priests, and consecrated religious.
In conjunction with the Conference of Brazilian Religious and Rede Um Grito Pela Vida, the Archdiocese of Brasília has sponsored a series of events to provide information about and opportunities to combat sexual slavery and forced labor. A delegation of Germans, including actress Eva Habermann, from Bischöfliche Aktion Adveniat, an organization aiming to support Catholic initiatives in Latin America, also participated in the march.
Participants received informational materials regarding human trafficking statistics in Brazil and around the world. Many carried flowers and banners in support of victims of exploitation.
The United Nations Refugee Agency reports that the Brazilian government is spending $2.9 million to implement a national anti-trafficking plan, which creates 10 new offices staffed by 400 officials. Identifying migrant workers and indigenous people as vulnerable groups, the International Labour Organization estimates that 4.5 million people are victims of sexual exploitation and 21 million people engage in forced labor.
While the World Cup promises to benefit local economies due to the influx of tourists, the games also involve an increase in the risk of human trafficking, a phenomenon observed by Rede Um Grito Pela Vida in the last two host countries, Germany and South Africa.
In its widely-distributed pamphlet, “Copa do Mundo: Dignidade e Paz,” the National Conference of Bishops of Brazil criticized the national government’s removal of families and communities from their homes and its allocation of public funds to stadium construction, monies which could have been used for health, education, and basic sanitation. The 2014 World Cup has been ranked as the most expensive to date, with Brazil spending $14-16 billion on costs associated with the global competition.
According to the Bishops, the success of the World Cup “will be in the guarantee of security for all without the use of violence, in respect to the right to peaceful protests in the streets, the creation of mechanisms which prevent slave labor, human trafficking, and sexual exploitation, above all, of socially vulnerable persons and efficiently combat racism and violence.”
The march concluded with a prayer service on the lawn of the Congresso Nacional. Sr. Rosa Maria Martins, MSCS, a coordinator of the march and a journalist for the Conference of Brazilian Religious, praised in a press release the grassroots efforts of local religious in condemning human trafficking. “CRB National welcomes all Brazilians, partner institutions, Christian denominations, Aktion Adveniat, and all those who play in favor of life and denounce all forms of the violation of the rights and dignity of the human being, for the sake of the Kingdom of God.”