Monday, 16 June 2014

Hospitals or Stadia? - Take your pick

As part of my series on the other side of the 2014 World Cup, here is a piece written almost a year ago by Mark and Suzana Greenwood.  The couple, who have been involved with mission work in Brazil since 1993, originally published them on their blog on the BMS World Mission website. Used with their permission, they explain about the protests last year and, in the postscript, Suzana reflects on the disparity between what was being done & what some would say was truly important. 

The seventh largest economy in the world, yet the world’s 17th most unequal country – the people of Brazil have a reason to unite and demand change. Whilst a small proportion of Brazilians are exceedingly rich, a huge number are exceedingly poor, and it is this inequality which has caused great discontent and made people flock to the streets in their thousands.
“Imagine the M1, the M2, the M3, the M40, the M4 and the M25 all being blocked at the same time,” says Mark Greenwood, BMS Regional Team Leader for Latin America. “That’s what it was like in Sao Paulo on Friday evening. It was just filled with hundreds of thousands people.”

Excessive spending on the 2014 FIFA World Cup, which is being held in Brazil, has acted as a catalyst to encourage all those dissatisfied with the inequality and poor public services in much of Brazil to protest. When billions are being spent on the football stadiums that are springing up across the country, the closure of hospitals and the many living in extreme poverty are harder to ignore. 

BMS’ Mark and Suzana Greenwood and their children Edward and Ana have all taken part in the weekend’s marches, which have been mostly very peaceful. “This doesn’t happen often in Brazil,” says Mark. “It’s refreshing and exciting to see so many people coming together to raise the issues that need to be addressed, and to call for social justice.”

Their united voices seem to be being heard, as Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff announced a series of reforms on Saturday.

The protestors are raising four main issues: health spending, education spending, transport costs and political corruption. It is these issues that Mark tries to deal with in his day job, as he heads up the Social Action Department of the Brazilian Baptist Convention; so it’s encouraging for him and his team to see the masses taking these injustices to the streets and being heard by the country’s leaders.

“It feels like the government realise that something has got to be done,” Mark says. “The streets are buzzing with a mixture of hope and unsure expectations. We’re not sure whether things are really going to change or not, but there’s a sense that everybody is happy to get out and make their voices heard.”
Yesterday, as I was on the bus, there was a traffic jam caused by health care students protesting against the closure of their University Hospital. On one of the posters I read: Just call me “World Cup” and you’ll invest in me!
Walking down the road to take Ana to school this morning, we felt a deep sadness to see an elderly man drinking water from the gutter, just a few streets from the new Maracanã stadium.
With billion dollar investments in Brazil for flashy new stadiums for sporting events, it is difficult to understand why a University hospital has to close, and people need to drink from gutters.
Injustice abounds, not only in Brazil. We pray that the fear of the Lord will be in the heart of government authorities, that they will lead with wisdom and have the right priorities.
We pray that as Christians we will know God's heart and follow his priorities.
Both these articles are available in their original form on the BMS World Mission website:
Please continue to pray for the people of Brazil - maybe the words found in Micah 6:8 will help...
"He has told you, O mortal, what is good;
    and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
    and to walk humbly with your God?"

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