Brazil: Bishop tells Santa Maria community to turn grief into action

A month on from the fire tragedy at Kiss club in Santa Maria, Rio Grande do Sul, Bishop of South-Western Brazil Francisco Silva has spoken out to the town of Santa Maria, encouraging its inhabitants to keep alive the memory of the 239 youngsters who died in the tragedy.

In an ecumenical service carried out at the Lutheran University of Brazil (ULBRA) in Santa Maria last week, members of the ecumenical community – including the Anglican bishop, his clergy and Lutheran and Methodist pastors – came together in the ULBRA Auditorium to remember the victims of the fire at the invitation of the University. The service consisted of readings, songs, prayers and a performance by the Santa Maria Lutheran congregation choir.

Across the city, a series of demonstrations to mark the one month anniversary of the incident also took place throughout Wednesday. The community in Santa Maria went to the streets, churches rang their bells, drivers honked their horns, the traffic stopped and there was a round of applause for over three minutes to honour the families affected and their late children.

According to Bp Francisco Silva, the Diocese is supporting an association comprising victims' relatives, which was created with the aim of being a mutual support group for them. He said the church has and will continue to assist the association by means of legal and psycho-social support, as well as the monitoring of criminal and civil investigations currently in place to bring those responsible for the events to justice.

Bp Silva asks the Communion to continue to support the Brazilian church through praying for the families affected, and adds that any financial assistance is welcome and will be put towards covering the association's maintenance costs. "The grief must turn into battle – a battle to ensure that public policy takes into account people's safety and care", Silva says. "The work directed towards overcoming this trauma must continue, so events like the [Santa Maria fire] never happen again".