Saturday, May 5, 2012

city of the sun

In 1992, with a small Pax Christi group, I visited City Soleil in Port-au-Prince Haiti.  It was late in the afternoon, and I remember the high "energy" - tension, noise - that I felt as we walked down the narrow passageways, crammed with people and smells.  We were so barraged by people begging from us that we had to hold onto each other.  Something tells me that this is how it was during the actual Crucifixion of Christ: this intensity, violence, despair and suffering.

I often wonder if I could survive for one day (or night) in this place, and what of the people who live their whole lives there, never knowing any where else.  My brothers and sisters.  Knowing this place is some kind of blessing and grace that touches the soul.

You can read more about the documentary film Mud Pies and Kites on Gerry Straub's blog here.


  1. I have watched few things which fill me with so much despair, yet also give me a glimpse of Christ.

    "In as much as you have done it to the least of these..."

  2. There's something about being willing to see it, be there, know that this kind of suffering exists and is real in our world. Before I went to Haiti I remember sensing that someone(?) was tapping me on the shoulder, saying "I want to show you something." This is what Gerry Straub is doing with this film, saying: "I want to show you something".

    I say that this louie blog is about contemplative awareness, but contemplative awareness has to include the city of the sun.

  3. Scenes like these are not entirely new to me. In fact, in our country - the Philippines - you can find people living in similar circumstances, in shanty towns that have mushroomed in our urban areas. Yet each time I see scenes such as these, my heart goes out to the people who live in the midst of such misery... Sad to say, just like in Haiti, such grinding poverty in our country is mainly caused by the callousness, greed, and corruption of our government leaders...

  4. I'm not sure what causes this kind of poverty, Matt, but I'm pretty sure that I am complicit in it.

    When someone is born into this dire poverty, it is probably impossible for them to escape. What is amazing is how palpable the presence of God is here. I wonder if that is not the invitation - to see and respond to this suffering.

  5. Beth, I just returned from church and taking my son out to eat afterwards and when I watched the segment about mud pies I almost lost it. This is so sad. I have worked with the poor in the inner city of Milwaukee and have seen some sad situations but nothing like this. You are right that we are complicit in this. I Googled Port-au-Prince Haiti vacation just to see how it would be portrayed. Lightyears from what this film shows. I think the closest I have come to seeing anything like this was in the nursing home where there are too many patients and not enough staff. One begins to lose perspective and where the purpose was to help the elderly it soon became more of an objective to get the work done and move on to the next task. The personal touch was lost. That's what I saw in the film. The "touch of humanity" was missing. That to me is very sad.

  6. I find it also in the prisons of the USA. People who are just thrown away and forgotten about.

    1. I was involved in prison ministry for several years and found that often the lives in the prison was better than some of the lives on the streets. At least they had food and shelter and often programs they could join. Frequently it was anger that kept many of the prisoners prisoner. It is very difficult to break down someones anger. It takes time, love and authenticity. Many people working in the prison system for a living lack these qualities. It is unfortunate but it seems anywhere that there are masses of people needing some form of care if the workers are too few the work becomes overwhelming and frequently disintergrates into chaos.

    2. I know what you mean, Les. One of my prisoner friends describes his years in juvenile detention as the best of his life. He got 3 meals a day and was able to play basketball every day.

      My biggest problem with the criminal justice system is the harshness and cruelty of the sentencing. So many promising and redeemable young people are sentenced to life in prison with no chance to ever get out. They are not dangerous people and have shown through their behavior that they deserve a 2nd chance, but there is no mercy. This devastation extends through their families and communities.


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