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It was huge. Unbelievably large. I could hardly fathom how large it was. I had just arrived in Bombay (many years ago, when it was still called Bombay...now Mumbai), and I was leaving the area of the airport and traversing a huge slum, that is like a city unto itself, and even has its own name, Dharavi. I was fascinated, and over the following months learned much about it. There are over 1.2 million people living in one of the world’s largest slum areas. It continues to grow, where people create makeshift homes for themselves out of cardboard and plastic, quite literally out of whatever garbage they can find. Death is a regular part of life, but more often than is right, from malnutrition, hunger and preventable disease. I was moved by the plight of those souls, living in abject poverty with no apparent hope.
Some years later, I began to read in the Hindustan Times, about the challenges facing the business community in India, particularly CSIA, (the Mumbai airport). It needs desperately to expand, because the volume of air traffic into Mumbai is becoming overwhelming. They own sufficient acreage to make such an expansion, but they cannot. They cannot because hundreds of acres are now occupied by slum dwellers. Many articles began to be written, and social media was filled with quite terrible things about these folks. They were called: lazy, parasites, burdens, useless, garbage, etc. What to do about Dharavi?
In many ways, seeing this has become for me a preview of the ways in which many people view the homeless today. We don’t know their stories or their circumstances; we choose simply to look down upon them in their suffering, with judgment and fear. We all have seen the Lazarus Jesus mentions in Luke 16.