Saturday, 15 December 2007
What does the Kingdom of God look like in the Asha slums? letter of reflection from Dr Kiran Martin
My dear friends,
What does the Kingdom of God look like in the slums, where little children play with excrement, fall into dirty drains, where waste rots, pigs feed, flies feast, pollution lingers, odours ferment and diseases mock? Where children live in tents stitched with rags, neglected and abused, where the joy of childhood is never experienced? Where women are suppressed and beaten, stripped of their rights, voiceless?
I began my spiritual quest nearly 20 years ago through sitting outside a tiny slum hut, one among hundreds of huts squeezed together along a filthy drain. I treated the sick all day, listening to them and comforting them. Today, nearly two decades later, as I see the beautiful women holding their heads high, empowered and confident, healthy children living in safe and secure homes, and playing happily on the clean paved streets, perhaps I have had a glimpse of what the Kingdom of God looks like in the slums.
In this Kingdom, the slums become a place where the poor, created in the image of God, become possessors of a dignity, their inherent worthiness, which is inalienable and inviolable. Where they are empowered to live full and meaningful lives. Where God's justice and impartiality are consistently expressed. Where the oppressed and exploited, those treated with scorn, exclusion and contempt, are defended and comforted. Where the fainthearted are encouraged, where the dimly burning flame is never quenched, where fairness and truth reign.
It is a place where we respond to injustice through non-violent resistance and active peacemaking, thus showing ourselves not violent or weak, but rather courageous and dignified and strong, exposing the naked greed and cruelty of our oppressors.
It is a place where compassion and love is the fundamental thing. And it is not just about loving friends and hating enemies, but about loving our enemies. About pursuing forgiveness and reconciliation, not retaliation and revenge.
It is a place where we practise a liberating generosity toward the poor, to dethrone greed that clouds our outlook, and topple the regime of money.
It is a place where joyful, worshipping communities of the poor and the outcasts experience God's forgiveness and blessing, healing and restoration.
Those belonging to this Kingdom refuse to respect economic, class or social barriers, but rather treat everyone with kindness and respect. They enjoy the company of the poor, the homeless, the disadvantaged, the social outcasts and the marginalized women and children, eating and drinking with them.
This Kingdom advances not through those who are preoccupied with money, power, status and control, but through those who are preoccupied with service and love, justice and mercy, humility and hope. With those who are fired up to sacrifice their time, intelligence, money and energy in the advancement of this Kingdom. And once we get a glimpse of this Kingdom, nothing else will fully satisfy us.
It is my prayer that my slums will become a place God is at home in, a place that God takes pride and pleasure in, a place where God's dreams come true.
God bless you and keep you.
Dr. Kiran Martin
Founder and Director
New Delhi INDIA