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The voices of Brazil and Hong Kong

THE DELEGATION FROM the Hong Kong diocese is being commissioned on July 7 in preparation for World Youth Day, which is scheduled to open in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on July 23.

But in the run up to the event, Brazil has been experiencing waves of demonstrations joined by over one million people in protest against poor state governance and the huge cost to ordinary people of the preparation for the 2014 World Cup.

The bishops’ conference issued a statement declaring its solidarity with and support for these demonstrations, with the proviso that they remain peaceful.

With a population of 194 million people and as the largest country in Latin America, Brazil has come a long way in its development of social infrastructure over the past decade, reducing the number of people classified as living in poverty by 35 million. But the gap between the rich and the poor is still highly serious.

A report entitled, The Real Brazil: The Inequality Behind the Statistics, published by Christian Aid in 2012, says that the country’s wealth is concentrated in the hands of the few, with two-thirds of the agriculture owned by three per cent of the people.

There are still 16 million people living in extreme poverty in Brazil and in the 11 to 14 age group, over 750,000 receive no education and mostly end up as child labourers.

During the Days in the Diocese segment of World Youth Day, some will visit local neighbourhoods to get an insight into what poverty can mean.

Young people from Hong Kong have already had the chance to reflect on the issues of poverty, staying in partitioned flats where each sweaty square foot can cost more than in a luxury home.

The rich-poor divide is a serious problem in Hong Kong. Leo Goodstadt, the former chief policy adviser of the Hong Kong government Central Policy Unit, said at a conference sponsored by Caritas in May that although the Hong Kong administration has an extremely large fiscal reserve, it does not address its responsibilities in social welfare.

Does this mean that Hong Kong is so poor that only money is left over?

Marking the 40th anniversary of Pope John XXIII’s famed encyclical, Peace on Earth (Pacem in Terris), Pope John Paul II said in his World Day of Peace Message in 2003 that local authorities can nurture peace through “honesty in the supply of information, equity in legal systems, openness in democratic procedures that give citizens a sense of security, a readiness to settle controversies by peaceful means, and a desire for genuine and constructive dialogue, all of which constitute the true premises of a lasting peace.”

The current wave of discontent in Brazil is the people’s voice calling for lasting peace and justice. The archbishop of Rio de Janeiro, Orani João Cardinal Tempesta, said it is “in some ways similar to the spirit of World Youth Day—the desire to work together for a new world, for a new life, a new society… (and) are expressions that are part of a democratic country.”

In Hong Kong over 400,000 people took to the streets on July 1 to call for a better future.


“Dear young people, do not bury your talents, the gifts that God has given you! Do not be afraid to dream of great things!” (Pope Francis, tweet, April 26). SE