Sunday, December 09, 2012

No God-forsaken Towns

This past week, a study came out listing the best and worst cities in the world to live in.  I never expect Port-au-Prince to make the "best" list, but I was surprised by just how low our city scored on this index.  Out of 221 cities studied, Port-au-Prince placed 219th.  A new tourist slogan could be: "We're better than Bangui and Baghdad!"

There's worse news, too.  The same study examined the infrastructure in these cities, and on that list, Port-au-Prince came in 221st.  Yes, dead last.

Here's an article about the Mercer study and here's the study itself. And here is a recent UN report on the status of the world's cities.

It's true that in Port-au-Prince, you have to spend a lot more energy on acquiring basic utilities than in most urban settings in this world.  I've whined about that many times on this blog.  And that's for people living in homes.  A statistic I read this week said that 360,000 people continue to live in tents following the earthquake.  We will soon mark the three year anniversary of the earthquake.  Imagine living in a tent for three years, a tent that has by now been disintegrating in the tropical sun and rain for a very long time.  There is deep, intractable poverty here.  The inequalities are severe.  Yes, there is still much that is beautiful (and frankly I'd much rather focus on that), but I can't deny that the quality of life for many people in this city is far from adequate.

Kelley Nikondeha, who lives in Burundi, put it this way, speaking not specifically of Port-au-Prince but of the world in general, the suffering she sees everywhere:
More than anything I feel weighted by unsatisfied longings. Ambushed by word of disrupted adoptions and the demolished marriage of friends, angst replaces the more traditional anticipation. News out of places like Goma and Gaza remind me people live under daily threat, some days cowering in their homes. Slums in Kampala and townships outside Cape Town refuse to be quieted, they scream of layers upon layers, years and years of injustice. These people, these places press all the levity out of me.
  Read the rest of her post about her Advent ache here.

As we celebrate Advent once more, I have to believe that Emmanuel, God with us, is here in this city, that He has not forsaken this city or this world.  He came as a baby, as vulnerable as it is possible to be, to a family who had nowhere to stay the night of His birth and who became refugees soon afterward.

Last night we listened to a concert of the Messiah.  Before the concert, my husband and I got to hold the twin babies of a school employee, as their father beamed and snapped pictures with his phone.  Later, as we sat waiting for the music to start, I noticed a row of drool marks on my husband's shoulder from the tiny boy he had snuggled against him.  Instantly my mind went to the description of the Messiah that we would soon hear sung: "the government shall be upon His shoulder."  He who shoulders the burdens of the world became small enough to be held against the shoulder of fallible human parents.  He entered into the mess of the world, the low quality of life, the lack of infrastructure, and He is still here, bringing life in mysterious and incomprehensible ways.  

But we wait, we long, we work, for things to be better.  Because one way God is in this city is in His people.  Even though we don't know what to do, and we don't know how to help, and we get it wrong so often. 


Janet said...

Great post.

Linda B said...

Oh Ruth, what a wonderfully written post about your city, and about others. It never fails to stop me in my tracks when I hear of others so in need & when I am tired, or cranky, I know in my heart that I should not be, that others have so much need. Is it possible for you to send this to the NY Times, or some paper to see if they might publish it? Or, comment on another article in a larger paper about the city lists? I hope you do!

Sarah SSM said...

Thank you.
Very much.
Seconding Linda above.