The World Evangelical Alliance has sent a welcoming message to world soccer's governing body FIFA that expresses concerns over human trafficking opportunities that soccer's World Cup could present.
In a greeting message for the Opening Ceremony of the World Cup that started Thursday in Brazil, the World Evangelical Alliance noted the uniqueness of this sports event in bringing people together in diversity.
However, the WEA joined its local national body, Aliança Cristã Evangélica Brasileira (ACEB), in expressing concerns over the potential exploitation of vulnerable people who may be exploited during the global sports event.
"We join our brothers and sisters in Brazil in this prayer for protection and Gospel opportunity amidst the World Cup festivities," said Dr. Geoff Tunnicliffe, secretary general of the WEA.
"And specifically, we would encourage the nation of Brazil to host local neighborhood events for children and youth in places of safety - places where everybody wins."
Brazilian President Dilma Roussef requested the World Evangelical Alliance to send a greeting message to be read at the Opening Ceremony of the FIFA World Cup, emphasizing the importance of sports as a tool for social inclusion and promoting peace.
"The eyes of millions around the world have turned to Brazil for the World Cup, which is likely the biggest sporting event in the world that amazingly brings together people from different nationalities, cultures and languages," said Tunnicliffe.
'SPIRIT OF UNITY'
"It is an event that seeks to encourage peace and respectful coexistence and an opportunity for the world to gather together in the spirit of unity," Tunnicliffe said.
"However, sporting events can break that spirit when sideline events through human trafficking become opportunistic with tourists and vulnerable children and youth."
In another letter to the Brazilian president, World Council of Churches general secretary Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit said, "Football is one of the most influential elements in the formation of young people around the world and it has the potential of lifting up and uniting them in fair and healthy activities."
"Sports can be a powerful tool for social inclusion and a way for building peace and dignity for all," he said.
In its statement on "Pentecost, Brazil and Soccer," ACEB writes that Brazilians are friendly people and rejoice in welcoming visitors from other countries.
It says that foreigners should enjoy the natural beauties and wonderful flavors of Brazil.
"However, they must not in any way get involved in sexual exploitation of children and adolescents.
"Brazil is not a sex tourism destination! We do not accept that this party, which is costing us so much, will be used for ulterior purposes such as sex tourism and exploitation of minors.
"We want this party to be marked by good relationships and respect for everyone, whether foreign or Brazilian," says the ACEB.
"Therefore we pray for our nation, its people and its rulers, at this very special moment for us all.
"We pray for our children and the disadvantaged, so they are protected and safe during this period. And we pray that the various initiatives of many of our churches these days have the mark of the Gospel and lead many to celebrate the new life in Jesus Christ."
"We join our brothers and sisters in Brazil in this prayer for protection and Gospel opportunity amidst the World Cup festivities," Dr. Tunnicliffe says. "And specifically, we would encourage the nation of Brazil to host local neighborhood events for children and youth in places of safety - places where everybody wins."