The Brazilian version of the Strong Without Violence project that in Europe has touched the lives of more than 500,000 young people, started in January 2013 in various places in South America. The aim is to make young people strong in their opposition to violence, sidelining others, harassing them and the many kinds of subtle but painful abuse that there are.
Central to the project is the musical Streetlight performed by the international band Gen Rosso. It tells the true story of Charles Moats from the Chicago ghetto. He stayed faithful to his Gospel ideals despite the difficulties and the hatred he faced. He made a decision not to follow violence and stuck to his choice even to the point of sacrificing his life.
The project has four weeks of modules that lead up to the final show. In them the students study the theme of violence and its negative effects. At the same time they learn how to recognize and develop their own talents. In the final show the young people take part in the musical itself, together with Gen Rosso – both on stage and behind the scenes.
To create the project Gen Rosso worked with the Starkmacher association in Mannheim, which supports them in Germany, and the Brazilian Fazendas da Esperanza. These are rehabilitation centres, generally on farms, where the young people can get together and find a way out of the world of drugs and other forms of dependency.
To get things ready to put Strong Without Violence into the Brazilian context, a group from Starkmacher made the trip to Brazil to share their own experience. They went to Fortaleza and Guaratinguetá in the North East and South of Brazil. They met about forty young and older adults (educators of various sorts), who came from a variety of Brazilian cities, and who will be able to multiply the project all over the country. They were trained in its methodology, its educational bases and the organizational structures that support it. In four and a half days, then, they worked together to produce the Brazilian version. A tremendous influence came from various people of influence, such as Eros Biondini, Secretary for Minas Gerais State. He said he too would spread the word about the project.
It seems that Strong Without Violence comes at just the right moment for Brazil. There is a passionate public debate on a new law proposing enforced therapy for drug addicts. Requests for new places in the rehabilitation centres, the ‘fazendas’, are growing hugely.
Strong Without Violence, in its Brazilian version, looks like it will become an instrument that can give hope that there will be new possibilities for Brazilian young people in tough situations.
By Andrea Fleming