Respects paid at Candelaria for murdered street children

Posted on the 5th April 2014

More than 20 years after the murder of eight street youth by off-duty police in Rio de Janeiro shocked the world,  a delegation from the SCWC visited the Candelaria church in the centre of the city on Saturday to remember those who died on its steps and to call for the protection of street children everywhere.

The incident on 23 July 1993 in which off-duty police shot dead eight youths sleeping outside the church was just one of the better-known cases in a long history of violence against street children and marginalised youths in Brazil.

“Today, statistics show us that 24 children and adolescents are killed in Brazil every day. That is three Candelarias a day,” said Manoel Torquato, from the national campaign A Crianca nao e da Rua (Children are not of the street).

He added: “This year, I have been to six funerals – one of the boys that I helped to bury had been coming to this tournament. It is so sad to see lives ended so early. We cannot bring them back but we can save the lives of young people out on the streets in future. No more street children must die in Brazil.”

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Visitors, including team leaders and some of the children from the 25 teams taking part in the tournament, observed a minute’s silence and laid rose petals on the painted red outlines of the eight boys who died nearly 21 years ago. 

“I was looking at the outlines thinking that they could be eight of my boys,” said Antonio Carlos da Silva, from O Pequeno Nazareno, in Fortaleza, which has sent the team of boys that represent Brazil in the SCWC. 

Later, in Soccer City at Lonier, children and the volunteers listened to an open letter from A Crianca calling on the government to immediately implement the national policy for street children and for an end to compulsory round-ups of street children during the Fifa World Cup. “Street children need rehabilitation and protection not punishment and death,” said Joe Hewitt, director of the SCWC Brazil office. 

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Overlooking the field of children and volunteers was a giant mural of three footballers from this year’s tournament. Painted by Joel Bergner, it depicts a boy from India, a girl from Nicaragua and Brazilian Rodrigo Kelton, a promising footballer and former captain of the boys’ team from Fortaleza who did not play at the tournament because in February he was shot dead on his fourteenth birthday by drug gangsters. 

Even so, Rodrigo’s presence has been felt strongly all week, as children from several teams have paid homage to his smiling image when they have scored a goal in Soccer City, and his former teammates have posed with his portrait  at their matches, reminding the media and onlookers that for street children, this is more than a game.

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