There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all.-1 Corinthians 12: 4-6
The World Cup fever hits royalty as well. Prince Harry was here to support the English Team and for a short state visit. This is not his first time in Brazil but it was his first time touring São Paulo on an official visit. He wanted to visit Cracolândia. For those unfamiliar with our postings about this place, you can read about it from the links below. Cracolândia is a nickname given to a place in São Paulo where all the crack addicts go to waste their lives away by smoking crack. It is a dirty and disease-ridden place. The number of the homeless here varies but on the average there are about a thousand people that live in the streets here. Cracolândia is in the center where we live and Prince Harry was in our neighborhood last week.
This visit was anything but spontaneous. There have been some activities in Cracolândia on the part of the mayor’s office since the beginning of this year. They have been systematically cleaning up the area. By this, I mean to say that the local government has been trying to solve the problem of the homeless crack addicts. I always believe that we should give credit where credit is due and the mayor took a commendable approach to solving the problem. The previous path of action would have been one of violence. The mayor would send in the police armed to the teeth and force the homeless to disperse. This time the present mayor, Fernando Haddad, engaged the help of some social agencies and they came up with a plan to provide jobs in exchange for housing and food together with a little pocket money. The jobs were mainly working with sanitation department. Participation in this program was voluntary and many of the addicts enlisted in this program. It goes without saying that the opponents of the mayor predicted that this program would fail. This is just politics. From our perspective, it is too early to tell whether it is going to be success in the long run. However, we do see many positive things happening. The jobs and temporary housing are helping some of the addicts regain their dignity. They like working and having a clean place to sleep. Most of them admit that they use all their earned income on drugs, but they have stopped engaging in illicit activities to finance their drug habit. The program also offers drug rehabilitation services. Perhaps some of them will move towards this direction.
I am sure that local mayor is doing this because of political motives but it does not matter. It only matters that God is using this to reach out to these forgotten people. Prince Harry’s visit restores a greater sense of dignity to these people. The prince got a sanitized version of Cracolândia. The cleaning crew made sure everything looked presentable for the visit. The Prince just wanted to meet some of the people who slept in the streets and he did. We saw some of the footage and he spoke to some people with whom we have good relationship.
My father told me that one of his favorite memories was the visit of Queen Elizabeth to Singapore in 1972. She chose to visit the poorest neighborhoods then and she wanted to visit families in their homes. The visit marked the hearts and minds of the poor then and many like my father have fond memories of her visit. Royalty in some strange strikes a cord in our spirituality. To have royalty visit the poorest of the poor is like something you read in a fairy tale. Prince Harry followed the footsteps of the Queen and visited the poorest of the poor. Whether consciously or unconsciously, he was an instrument of God’s grace for the people in Cracolândia. Some people might say that he made drug addicts into celebrities. I think he just made them feel human and worthy of a royal visit. This is all he did and I think it was a good thing.
* The clip above is a brief report on Cracolândia shown on British television prior to the visit of Prince Harry.
Previous Posts on Cracolândia: