Brazil's religious lead trafficking awareness campaign during World Cup

By Lise Alves

Days from the start of the World Cup in Brazil, an interreligious campaign is bringing awareness to sexual exploitation and human trafficking.

Called "Play in Favor of Life -- Report Human Trafficking," the campaign was developed by the Conference of Religious of Brazil.

"The campaign is about preventing the impacts of (sexual exploitation) before, during and after the World Cup," said Sister Manuela Rodriguez, a member of the Oblate Sisters of the Most Holy Redeemer and one of the campaign coordinators in Sao Paulo.

More than 30,000 women religious, nearly 8,000 priests and about 2,700 religious brothers are involved in the effort, according to the CRB.

Sister Manuela explained that the campaign started in March with visits to schools and parishes by members of the group who discussed how to recognition people who are victimized by sexual exploitation. They also discussed way to prevent exploitation of children and young adults.

Information from the CRB indicated sporting events such as the World Cup "end up being occasions for the practice of this crime" and "in many cases children are adopted illegally, teenagers are involved initially for the promotion of the sport but are then immersed in networks of sexual exploitation."

A week before the start of the World Cup tournament, members and volunteers were distributing pamphlets at bus stations and airports in an effort to reach out to visitors arriving in the 12 host cities across Brazil.

"We are also present around tourist spots, such as hotels and tourist attractions," Sister Manuela said.

"Our biggest problem has been with the cities up in the northeastern region of the country, especially Fortaleza, a known human trafficking route where sexual tourism has always been high," she said.

Fortaleza is one of the 12 cities hosting tournament matches.

The campaign has counted on television coverage and a national radio station has aired several public service spots warning of possible sexual exploitation of minors during the games.

On June 11, a day before the kickoff game in Sao Paulo between Brazil and Croatia, the Brazilian bishops' conference along with other organizations were planning a march in Brasilia to remember the victims of human trafficking and exploitation in an effort to raise awareness of the problem.

Catholic News Service - June 4, 2014