2016 Rio Olympics welcomes all religions with their prayer spaces.

The Olympic Games sees one of the biggest gatherings of people from all over the world. As such, it also happens to be one of the biggest interfaith gatherings with almost 100 million visitors from various faiths crowding in and around the arenas.

The Olympics organizers expect more than 17,000 athletes to participate in the games, and this number is made up of diverse religious faiths. Religion is an important part of the lives of many people, as belief in a higher power gives hope, encouragement, and emotional healing. These needs will be running high among athletes in an event of this magnitude. Brazil, which will be hosting the events this year, is all set to cater to the spiritual needs of the athletes as well as the visitors.

At the forefront of this decision is Father Leandro Lenin Tavares, a cleric from the capital city Rio de Janeiro. Fr. Tavares says that the aim of this spiritual center is to provide a zone of comfort, peace and healing to the athletes, irrespective of their religion. The center will be a multi-religious space mainly representing the world's five major religions: Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism and Judaism. The center will have separate worship houses for the adherents of these faiths with ministers from each of the communities to perform their religious duties.

Athletes who come from non-mainstream faiths such as Spiritists (not to be confused with spiritualists) and nature-worshiping paths will find acceptance in the center, says Fr. Lenin. Religious practices are still adhered to by sportspersons even as they are training and practicing and as such the presence of a spiritual center in the Olympics village will be of great help to the athletes. Carl Dambman, a Christian chaplain believes that athletes require spiritual aid as well, not only prayer for success and victory but also comfort in their losses.

In a world torn by religious extremism and interfaith misunderstandings, this spiritual center can come as a catalyst to promote interreligious brotherhood and unity. By integrating different ways of life into one center, it is hoped that misunderstandings will decrease, and acceptance of one another's differences will become easier. Though in practice extremists from every religion may say otherwise, the truth is that the goal of every religion is universal peace. Brazil, today is a melting pot of diverse religious cultures, and the Olympics comes as a great opportunity for the country to promote unity between different religions. Underlining this point is Fr. Lenin, and his hope that dialogue and brotherhood between different religions will get a boost even as the athletes have their spiritual and emotional needs fulfilled.

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