I have spent a great deal of time in Brazil, often dealing directly with the struggles of Amazonian Indians struggling to protect their rainforest from poachers and their way of life from disease and discrimination. But for such a beautiful nation, Brazil's ills aren't isolated in the trees. On the streets of Brazil's cities, dozens of children die violently every week, hundreds more are savagely beaten, and thousands live in squalor, neglect, and persecution on the streets.
Mark Rowland, Assistant Director of Jubilee Action in the UK, has just sent me this account by David Alton of their recent visit to the streets of Brazil, where he says the gutters literally run red with childrens' blood.
In the 1990s the world woke up to the horrifying reports of children routinely shot dead on the streets of Brazil. Many assumed that those days had been consigned to the pages of history.
During a recent visit to Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo, Recife and Olinda with a delegation from the international charity Jubilee Action, I discovered with dismay and anger that the carnage continues. It flourishes in a climate of fear, silence and official collusion. The streets literally run red with young Brazilian blood.
We began our mission by making a quiet pilgrimage to the church of Our Lady of Candelaria, in Rio
It was here, in July 1993 that six police officers opened fire on a group of street children who were sleeping in some doorways opposite the church. Today, a small cross, with the names of the eight boys who died, has been erected in front of Candelaria. Their silhouettes have been etched in red onto the surface of the street. Those dead boys, some as young as eleven, were Paulo Silva, Marcos Alves Silva, Paula Oliveira, Anderson Pereira, Leandro Conceicao, Valdevino Almeida, Gambazinho and the poignantly named Marcelo C. Jesus. (Seeing the image of Jesus in the form of these children, nailed again to a cross, should surely bring to mind his angry declaration that those who hurt a child would be hurled into the depths with a millstone around their necks. The secretive death squads and those corrupt policemen and officials who continue to collaborate or acquiesce in the quiet assassination of Brazil's young people should be reminded of that admonition every hour of every day until the killing stops. The scale of the killing is almost unbelievable.)