Puerto Rican Brethren ask for prayer for island’s financial crisis
Brethren from Puerto Rico who were at the Church of the Brethren’s Cross Cultural Consultation and Celebration in Pennsylvania May 4-7, asked fellow participants to pray for the island during its current financial crisis. As of May 1 nearly 100,000 government employees including teachers and others have been temporarily laid off as the Puerto Rican government said the island had run out of money, according to media reports.
The island senate and governor approved a deal on Saturday to end the government shutdown and were said to be working on an agreement on a special sales tax to close the deficit gap.
At least two Brethren members at the consultation in Pennsylvania were among those not currently receiving a paycheck, according to Jaime Diaz, who issued the call for prayer. He said the financial crisis has been affecting his own family. Diaz is pastor of Castañer Church of the Brethren and a member of the Church of the Brethren General Board.
Brazilian Brethren in Sao Paulo state affected by gang uprising
Igreja da Irmandade-Brasil (Church of the Brethren in Brazil) is requesting prayer following a wave of gang violence that has swept the state of Sao Paulo since last weekend. Sao Paulo is the country’s largest state. The violence that has targeted the police and banks, and has burned public transportation buses began Friday, May 12, according to the BBC, and included uprisings at some 70 prisons.
Marcos Inhauser, national director for the Brethren mission in Brazil, requested prayers “for the people to be safe and have more emotional control in this situation, and for the authorities to have wisdom in seeking a cease-fire” with the criminal organization–called “First Command of the Capital,” according to the BBC–that has orchestrated what Inhauser called terrorist-like violence.
“We have many people living in a very scary area” near a prison in the city of Hortolandia, Inhauser said, reporting on the situation as he stopped at the Church of the Brethren General Offices in Elgin, Ill., on his way to speak at a church planting conference at Bethany Seminary. About 25 church members and their families live near the prison in Hortolandia, which is a center for the gang of guerrillas and criminals involved in drug traffic and other crimes, Inhauser said.
In the meantime, human rights activists have criticized the police for their violent response, which they say has killed at least 33 presumed gang members and put innocent civilians in danger, the “Christian Science Monitor” reported yesterday May 18. The Monitor said violent confrontations between the police and the criminal organization continued through at least Wednesday night, and that more than 150 people have been killed including 40 police.
The criminal organization is the result of a government decision of some years ago to put guerrillas in custody along with the criminal population, Inhauser said. A kind of criminal union resulted, with a very well structured administration that has orchestrated some 186 attacks, he said.
“Another thing that scares is the level of coordination that they have,” Inhauser said. For example, the violence has targeted police, and is so well organized that members of the police force were attacked while off duty or at their homes.
Over the past weekend and early this week, the Sao Paulo area was brought to a standstill by the burnings of buses used for public transportation, shootings of policemen and civilians, fears of attacks on banks, and ensuing panic and mass traffic jams, Inhauser reported.
He added, “It was not an easy time to leave home.”