Thursday, 12 June 2014

World Cup 2014 - A beach in Brazil

In 2001 I flew to Brazil as part of a BMS Action Team, a voluntary missionary scheme. I lived & worked for six months in the North East of the country, staying in Fortaleza & Natal. For the next month the eyes of the world will be on Brazil, and at times on the two cities I knew best.
I wrote the following as a two-minute reflection for Morning Prayer at Ripon College, Cuddesdon. Although not based on a single day, I witnessed all the events described first-hand. It is a reality still for those living in poverty, many in the shadow of amazing affluence. So while you enjoy the unique Brazilian atmosphere, spare a thought for those who will be just as passionate about every match, but would have loved the tournament to make a positive impact on their situation instead of lining the pockets of those who already have so much.
 Picture yourself on a beach in Brazil.

The warmth of the sun caresses your skin as you take in your surroundings. The inviting clear-blue sea to your left, the golden sand stretching out in front of you. All around you are people. Beautiful people. Laughing, drinking, playing. The smell of a barbecue fills your nostrils. You feel relaxed, at peace, on holiday.

A movement catches your eye. A small boy, in scruffy red shorts and bare feet runs past and heads off towards the road to your right. You feel the urge to follow him so you walk quickly, the luxury hotels along the beachfront looking huge in contrast to the running lad. He dashes across the road & darts down a path between two hotels. You’re jogging now to try to keep up – you don’t know where you’re going, but following the boy seems important.

He runs across another road, then down an alley. As you slip in behind him and the noise of the traffic fades, a sense of unease creeps up on you.
The alley opens up and you find yourself at the bottom of some large concrete steps. Suddenly the smell of raw sewage catches in your throat. You head up the steps, unsure why. Either side of you are small dwellings – glancing through the open windows you see single rooms strewn with numerous hammocks.
Away from the sea, the heat is becoming uncomfortable. You see a woman feeding a small skinny baby from a dirty bowl of what looks like rice. A blob drops onto the dusty ground – she scoops it up with a finger and thrusts it into the child’s mouth. A small group of toddlers are playing with an empty can. There are barely dressed, with tight skin and swollen, distended bellies.

Then you see the running boy. He has stopped just ahead of you, and turns round. His large, dark eyes meet yours, and for a second his vacant stare bores into you. He takes a small packet out of his pocket and walks into the open doorway on his right. Hesitantly you peer into the gloomy room, where a man is lying on the floor with a small camping stove burning, silver foil resting above it, the contents of the packet now melting on top. The boy turns to go, and the man throws a bottle at him to hurry him along.

You’re heart is breaking, and you feel like asking God why He allows poverty, hunger & suffering; why so many live with so little while the few have so much.

But you don’t, because you realise he may ask you the same question…

Want to know more about Brazil's 'stolen' World Cup? Visit the Christian Aid website.


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