Soccer Peace Tournament to Coincide With World Cup

The Catholic Church in Southern Africa is organizing a Soccer Peace Tournament to coincide with this year's World Cup as a way to bridge divides between people of different ethnicities, social classes, and team loyalties.

Sponsored by Caritas Internationalis and the Damietta Peace Initiative, the Peace Cup will be played every Saturday at 9:00 a.m. from June 5th to July 3rd. 64 players from some 15 countries will participate in the tournament, which will be held in the township of Atteridgeville, Pretoria, about 40 miles away from the Loftus Versfeld Stadium where the United States, South Africa, Spain, and other teams are slated to face off in June.

"The Peace Cup's objective is to seize the FIFA World Cup's opportunity to spread the values that our societies so much need, especially in Africa. These are values that the Church does not cease to advocate: charity, dialogue with other religions and cultures, justice, solidarity, fraternity, non-violence," a statement from the event's organizers reads.

"Sport is a recognized instrument for promoting these values, as it disregards both geographical borders and social classes. It also plays a significant role as a promoter of social integration and economic development in different geographical, cultural and political contexts," they say.

"Problems in post conflict situations can be eased as sport has the ability to bring people together."

Meanwhile, bishops in the Anglican Communion have shared their prayers for the global sporting event, asking God to bless those who compete and those who watch.

"Lord of all the nations, who played the cosmos into being, guide, guard and protect all who work or play in the World Cup. May all find in this competition a source of celebration, an experience of common humanity and a growing attitude of generous sportsmanship to others," a prayer posted by the Rt. Rev Nick Baines, Bishop of Croydon reads.

Baines also included a prayer for those "simply not interested" with the World Cup, asking God to bless them with understanding, to strengthen them with patience, and to grant them the "gift of sympathy if needed."

On a more serious note, alongside the calls for good sportsmanship and competition, others are clamoring to put a halt to human trafficking during the World Cup.

Faith leaders, non-profits, governmental agencies, and even World Cup organizers have joined in the initiative to combat trafficking at this year's sporting event, which some observers say could bring some 40,000 sex workers into South Africa.

One initiative, the Red Card to Human Trafficking Campaign, was launched in March by the South African Justice Department, the National Prosecuting Authority, the Commission of Gender Equality and the 2010 World Cup Organizing Committee.

"The campaign against human trafficking will be implemented beyond the six weeks of the Soccer World Cup as part of your government's anti-trafficking programme," Justice and Constitutional Development Minister Jeff Radebe told local sources.

Earlier this month a Catholic mass was held in Pretoria to pray for an end to human trafficking.

"We call for a vigorous public awareness of the scourge of human trafficking," Archbishop of Johannesburg Buti Tlhagale said during the mass. "Each individual, each parish community, the entire Christian community should stand together in order to campaign against this evil of selling human beings in exchange for sexual favours."

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