University students and other volunteers donated around 1,600 copies of the book The Great Controversy, by the American writer Ellen G. White, to the Juazeiro Penal Complex, in Bahia. Copies were distributed among inmates, employees, and visitors.
In the month of World Book Day (April 23), actions like this are an opportunity to highlight the importance of the habit of reading and the impact that a book can make in someone's life. The action is part of the Libertos Project, an initiative that aims to encourage this habit in prisons based on Law 7.210/84 (Criminal Execution Law), which aims to recognize reading as a form of social restoration and may even lead to a reduction in prison sentence.
This is one of the resources that can promote the detainees’ social reintegration, in addition to reducing idleness and preventing criminal recidivism. The law allows that for each book read, there is a redemption of four days of sentence for the prisoner, with a cap of twelve read works per year.
For Gleydson Silva, director of Publications Ministry at the Adventist Church's administrative headquarters for the northern region of Bahia, the initiative was a way to put compassion into practice and help others. “Whenever I passed in front of the penal complex, something told me that I should do something to fulfill Jesus' order to visit the prisoners. That's when the idea of the Libertos Project came up, which comes to free these people not only from the physical chain, but also from the spiritual one,” he points out.
Copies of The Great Controversy were purchased from colporteurs. Many of the volunteers are students who participate in certain periods of the year, but there are those who work on a permanent basis, such as Pedro Oliveira.
A colporteur evangelist for 22 years, Pedro Luiz Oliveira is part of the team of colporteurs at the Adventist Church's headquarters for the region and collected more than 400 copies that were distributed through this action. At the time of delivery, he was moved to remember the efforts to make the project real. “I lived the campaign visiting people, presenting the project, and asking for help to get the amount of books to be delivered to the prison. I saw people shed tears and get emotional to know that this project would free oppressed people,” Oliveira shared. “And today, when we went in to deliver the books, I felt the emotion of seeing hundreds of prisoners thirsting for hope. It was an opportunity to see salvation and transformation of lives.”
Challenges and Overcoming
The distribution of missionary books is a common activity in the church's social and solidarity actions. Free distribution projects, such as Impacto Esperança, have benefited many people for over 15 years. However, reaching those who cannot choose where to go is an even greater challenge, as Weber Thomas, Adventist Church president for northern Bahia, points out.
“Delivering a book to a neighbor, a friend, an acquaintance is a [simpler] reality, but delivering a book to inmates in a penitentiary complex is a challenge,” Thomas declares. “There are rules and other impasses that make it difficult, but God opened the doors, and we were able to enter several pavilions. It was fantastic to see the joy of the employees in receiving us and the emotion of the detainees in receiving the book The Great Controversy.”