As theological debates on sexuality and marriage become more and more central, many Christian denominations are being asked to clarify their views.
The center has chaplains and prayer spaces, representing Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and Judaism.
More than 10,000 athletes from over 200 countries will compete in the Rio 2016 Olympics. During its busiest periods, the Rio 2016 committee expects over 17,000 athletes and officials will be living in the Olympic village.
To satisfy the spiritual needs of the world athletes competing in Rio, Olympic and Paralympic Village features a multi-faith center with chaplains and prayer spaces, representing Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and Judaism.
The centre opened its doors on July 24 and is operating from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. through the end of the Paralympic Games on September 21.
Each of the religions has their own worship space, able to hold roughly 50 people at any time, with different spaces available for Muslim men and women, who frequently pray separately.
According to the Rio 2016 website, chosen religions for the center were based on the faith composition of the athletes slated to compete in the Olympic Games. Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and Judaism are each represented by four chaplains, while four Roman Catholic chaplains and four Protestant chaplains are present to serve the needs of Christian athletes.
Father Leandro Lenin Tavares, a Rio de Janeiro priest coordinating the center explained that, although those are the faiths repersented, the center is able to “accept people from any religion, including spiritism and Afro-Brazilian religions such as Candomblé and Umbanda.”
“A QUIET PLACE”
“Our job is to provide athletes with a place where they can find comfort and spiritual peace, whatever their religion”, Father Leandro said in a statement. “We are a symbol of peace, brotherhood and the unity of people.”
Lenin added that "each individual working at the centre is well-versed in interreligious dialogue, and will be able to help people connect with the appropriate individuals who can help build their faith."
"We all believe in dialogue and brotherhood between religions. Our mission is to provide athletes in the village with whatever spiritual assistance they may need", he affirmed.
Christian chaplain Carl Dambman said spiritual leaders are at the Olympics to advise and encourage people. "We have Bible studies, we have prayer time, or we just give them a quiet place to be with themselves."
ASSISTENCE AND SUPPORT
"The athlete not only needs to have someone who he can celebrate with at the moment he wins, but he also needs a friend's shoulder when he realizes something didn't go as expected. The centre is not only a place where you find support. It's also a meeting spot where people can find help and assistance", priest Leandro Lenin pointed out
“Athletes come to the chaplains and worship spaces to pray for success, but also to mourn losses, celebrate victories, and receive support for any other concerns present in their lives at the moment” , Tavares added.
Dambman said he had ministered to competitors who have had deaths in their families, experienced injuries and who are grappling with depression.