Monday, September 3, 2007

Living In Water - Glimpses of Poverty

How is peace possible in the face of such iniquity? Today in The Daily Star newspaper it was stated that Sheikh Hasina, previous Prime Minister of Bangladesh was sued for Taka 3 crore graft (30 million Taka), and each and every day, new allegations are brought against business owners and government officials involved in corruption and financial scandals in the country of Bangladesh. This to demonstrate the gross inequality of rich and poor in this nation.
Upon taking the train from Dhaka to Mymensingh, some areas of intense poverty are visible within Dhaka. The living conditions are apalling. Houses (if they can even be called such), are often smaller than the majority of North American camping tents. Haphazardly constructed beside the railway tracks, many of these dwellings are constructed of jute, newspaper, magazines and ripped tarpaulines. They are between 3 and 5 feet tall and many had 4 or 5 people in them, even during the day. Cooking was done outside, and these dwellings, perhaps 4 feet by 6 feet in surface area were packed together like a game of Tetris. The North American joke about "living in a cardboard box" takes on new meaning in this situation where a cardboard box is no bigger or more luxurious than the places these families call home. The larger houses, built of corrugated iron, often bordered small ponds and are prone, each year to flooding and destruction, yet this source of unsafe drinking water is a necessity for these families. Safety is relative in these hellish conditions, as young children and toddlers could often be seen playing on railway tracks as trains come and go. How often, I wonder, must children here unnecessarily die because they have no safe place to play.
As I reflect on this ugly reality I face every day, I wonder what could the solution be? In a place of such extremes, where is love and empathy, and how can I, a lone individual do anything to show love and empathy to these thousands upon thousands of starving, destitute people? I cannot meet each of them, I cannot give them all food, or shelter, sometimes I wonder if the only solution is to pray, and to advocate systematic change, from the smallest, rural village, to the sprawling capital of Dhaka. To know the situation these people face, not by choice, nor by any flaw of character; is to know that change is vital, and that relationships, love and knowledge are they beginnings to a more just, sustainable society, in Bangladesh, in Canada, and globally.
En Paix. (French: In Peace)

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