Christians Pray for World Cup Peace, End to Trafficking

At a special pre-World Cup service in Munich’s famous Frauenkirche cathedral, Cardinal Friedrich Wetter prayed with hundreds of fans for a 'festival of peace and friendship.'
( [email protected] ) Jun 11, 2006 11:10 AM EDT

At a special pre-World Cup service in Munich’s famous Frauenkirche cathedral — where German-born Pope Benedict XVI once presided as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger — Cardinal Friedrich Wetter prayed with hundreds of fans for a "festival of peace and friendship."

"Only a few can play on the field, but we can all participate with our hope and joy," the Munich archbishop told worshippers Friday from an altar behind a giant white soccer ball. "Only one team can be world champion, but the greatest achievement is when the games are played peacefully and joyfully."

According to reports, the off-the-field calm of the World Cup's opening day extended into Saturday, thanks to intensive security and a party mood after England's first win.

"A party mood reigns," the region's top security official, Volker Bouffier, told The Associated Press.

More than three million people are expected to attend the quadrennial soccer championship – which featured an English team backed by tens of thousands of often-rowdy fans – and billions more will watch on television. According to AP, Frankfurt police were ready wherever fans congregated, some wearing helmets and bulletproof vests also toted video cameras.

They had little to do, however. There were no reports of arrests, though by nightfall police said they broke up several fights.

Meanwhile, women of the Methodist Church are urgently seeking action to stop sex trafficking that will take place during the World Cup.

Using the slogan "buying sex is not a sport," the women joined forces with The Coalition Against Trafficking in Women (CATW), and are aiming to highlight the appalling effects of trafficking on the lives of vulnerable, young women.

It’s estimated that more than 40,000 women could be brought into Germany to be exploited as sex workers, although German officials say the number is overblown.

"To think that in 21st century Europe, human beings can be bought and sold like goods is appalling," said Mary Moody, a worship leader at Gosforth Methodist Church, according to Christian Today. "We must do all we can to put pressure on governments for immediate action."

"Although we can feel helpless when faced with such issues, there is no doubt that writing letters can help, so we are urging people to show their support."

For months, Christians have expressed great concern over the flood of prostitutes and human trafficking that would also kick off along with the 64-match tournament. German police, however, reported seeing no signs of any explosion of forced prostitution that had been warned of in the months leading to the opening day.

[Editor's note: Daniel Blake in London contributed to this report.]