Mariapolis Gloria – Belém – Brazil28 September 2016
Mariapolis Gloria, with its hundred citizens has more than 40 buildings that blend in well with the natural surroundings. The Mariapolis was begun in the early 1970s as a training centre for the growing community of the Focolare Movement in that region. The generosity of many people not only made it possible to begin the work but provided even more than enough for unforeseen developments. One couple donated a large piece of land, several families settled on the property, and the permanent Mariapolis was begun.
The area is part of Benevides, a small city with some 50,000 inhabitants. The poverty, which is quite visible, generates violence and opens the door to drug trafficking. The first main victims are always the adolescents.
The Mariapolis stands against this background as an oasis. The Fiore School and Welcome Centre’s after-school program have been in operation for 20 years. There, more than 300 children between the ages of four and twelve are able to find not only tutoring and academic instruction, but a family, a home that welcomes them each day.
Workers at the Centre are all ex-students. They are credible models for the children, because they live in the same environment and give witness to the fact that change is possible. G. cares for the younger children. She teaches computer science. She lives in one of the most violent quarters, but her shining eyes bear witness to the transforming power of love even in her family where relationships were practically non-existent. “In front of the violent attitude of many children, we need to discover what lies behind it. We listen. We only try to make them feel loved. Then, little by little, the change happens,” says Francesca who is the Director of the school. It prompted one drug-dealing father to say: “But what is there in this place that I see my son so changed?”
The principal meeting of the youth in the Mariapoli Gloria has been held for 12 years in the period of the carnival, where the youth of at least nine different cities meet. Even if the event is promoted by the Catholic church, it has an ecumenical character, so people of other religions or with no religious belief can participate.