Long Distance & Slow Violence

Poverty and wealth are next door neighbors here in Guatemala City. And I’m not proud of this, but it makes me angry.

Long Distance

Today I looked out a raindrop speckled window at shopping centers, a BMW dealership, resorts and a massive McDonalds and seconds later gasped at the rusting gray and brown “homes” stacked on muddy cliffs beneath a well-traveled bridge. The distance between the haves and have-nots could be measured in yards.

Small homes in Guatemala City

How can those with more than enough – even a little more than enough – drive over their neighbors living in abject poverty and not notice, not care. Maybe they do. Surely they do. But how can this inequality exist between neighbors then? It makes me angry.

Small homes in Guatemala City

At home I’m not angry.

Though this poverty still exists in Guatemala, I’m not as bothered by it in America: the distance between my wealth and these rusting roofs is several hundred miles. A distance great for poverty to cross. So distance pacifies disgust.

But it’s not just the miles between us and them that feeds our indifference. There’s speed too…or a lack of it.

Slow Violence

When someone, because of war or insanity, brings death to a village or classroom all at once – in an instant – we’re outraged. When 3,000 people are sent to early graves by airplanes punched through skyscrapers, we hold telethons and fight back. But when 24,000 children under the age of five died from poverty related causes today – and yesterday, and the day before that – it didn’t even get a mention on CNN. Their deaths didn’t fling us into impassioned action either. Or even prayer.

Because poverty is slow violence.

Guatemalan Homes On Hillside

A child is born under a rusted roof and a corrupt government. There’s love under that roof but love can’t buy books, bread, milk, produce, school uniforms, immunizations, medicine…life.

Roof on home in Guatemala

Years pass with poverty building hopelessness within her, one whispered lie at a time: You’re worthless. You’re ugly. You deserve poverty. You’re nothing.

Illiteracy, malnutrition, parasites, bacteria, violence…slow violence.

These blogging trips were created to close the distance between your computer screen and rusted roofs, to create in us all an appropriate holy outrage over the violence poverty perpetrates on the body, mind, emotions, spirit and hope of children today.

Are you angry yet?

Guatemala Compassion International sponsored child

Ask God what you should do about that. Adopt? Share? Volunteer? Pray? Study? Take a trip?

Sponsor a child?

I’m praying He answers that question for you this week.