Some 600,000 soccer fans will descend on Rio De Janeiro when the World Cup kicks off on June 12, and while the world prepares for its biggest sporting event, Brazil’s churches are doubling efforts to the fight the darker side of the World Cup. Rio De Janeiro has a tragic reputation as being a haven for sex trafficking, and local churches are launching campaigns to raise awareness about the horrors of child sex abuse. UNICEF estimates that nearly 250,000 children are sexually abused in Brazil every year, with major sporting events fueling those numbers. Research from Childhood Brazil says reported sex crimes against children increased by a staggering 66 percent in South Africa’s 2010 World Cup. As Ronald Neptune, national coordinator of Bola na Rede, which provides tourists with information to combat child sex abuse, told Religion News Service,

Over the last three years, we’ve been preparing churches in the 12 cities, encouraging them to mobilize their congregations so they actively do something in the days leading up to and during the World Cup …As Christians, we can’t just clap our hands and praise the Lord, we have to work to make a difference to the lives of the young people at risk,” he said. “We can be the eyes and ears on the streets and the motivating force that gets people out leafleting and speaking to tourists about how they can be vigilant to help protect our children.

This week, area churches plan on gathering for prayer and mobilizing to pass out information to tourists on how to protect children …

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