Caritas Australia Draws Attention to Brazil’s Forgotten

MEDIA RELEASE: 6 June, 2014

PC14_BrazilVIDSTILL21With the kick-off for 2014 World Cup only one week away, the Catholic Church’s international aid and development agency, Caritas Australia, and its supporters are urging Australians to call on FIFA and the IOC to ensure their events are just and sustainable.

While large sporting events bring many benefits to their host countries, they can also adversely affect the most marginalised members of their societies.

Caritas Australia’s Sister Margaret Fyfe notes: “In Brazil, an estimated 21% of the population lives below the poverty line, and 11 million of these people live in the country’s favelas (slum districts). Discrimination, unemployment and poor access to basic resources are a daily problem for these vulnerable communities.”

Such problems can be found alongside exorbitant displays of wealth. Sister Margaret adds: “It’s been reported that the new stadium in Brasilia is the second-most expensive in the world.”

According to reports from Caritas Australia’s partner, the Movement for the Defence of Favela Residents (MDF), which works to improve living conditions in the favelas, many of their residents are being evicted, or have been threatened with eviction, to make way for stadiums, roads and other infrastructure for the World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics.

“It’s feared that the cost of this World Cup might surpass the costs of the last three combined,” said Sister Margaret.

This is particularly concerning, given that government funds that could have been used for much needed hospitals, schools and other facilities have been diverted to World Cup projects.

Brazil_130317_8327Through this year’s Caritas Australia’s Project Compassion Lenten Appeal, Australians learnt about the vulnerabilities and challenges of life in a favela from Maristely who lives in a Sao Paulo favela. With the support of Caritas Australia’s supporters, MDF has helped Maristely’s family to gain formal ownership of their house offering them security and safety in their community. But others continue to struggle in the shadow of the World Cup and the Olympics.

“Evicting people from their houses is a very complicated issue today. Their lives have been changed and complicated by the World Cup,” she said.

Maristely and her MDF colleagues recently organised a community meeting where she and other residents discussed the question ‘Who does the World Cup really benefit in Brazil?’. They discussed that sporting events like the World Cup should protect the most vulnerable and benefit the whole community, especially the poor. Maristely and her colleagues have vowed to continue their efforts and be a voice for justice in big sporting events like the World Cup.

“We know that it is not easy, but it is a fight we cannot forget about. Many families could be evicted from their homes, and if we don’t act quickly, unfortunately, they will have nowhere to go,” Maristely said.

To stand in solidarity with marginalised communities, read Caritas Australia’s Sports for Justice report and sign their petition to FIFA and the IOC at www.caritas.org.au/act/brazil.

Media contact: Nicole Clements 0408 869 833 or nicolec@caritas.org.au