Monday, 23 February 2009

Colombian Cameos (2)

Once a week I help on a project to take bread and hot chocolate to some poor people who live in the centre of Medellín. Because it is startlingly different from the normal tourist experience, a lot of foreigners get taken to visit the project, something I dubbed poverty tourism, thinking I was coining a phrase. In fact, this concept already exists. I was taken along to visit this project when I was here on holiday in 2006 and it made such an impact on me, that I came back. So although I have some doubts about the whole idea of poverty tourism, I keep taking people along. We start in a run-down hotel, and then spend a couple of hours on the streets, among the drug adicts, prostitutes, glue-sniffing street kids, and people who make their living recycling rubbish. A few weeks ago, a Dutch guy came along. He got chatting to one of the street people and when his Spanish ran out, I was called in to translate. The conversation went something like this:
Street Guy: Ask him if he is a Christian.
Dutch Guy: No, I'm not, but I have a lot of respect for Christian values.
Street Guy: Ask him if he wants to get to know Jesus.
Dutch Guy: Not right now. I am not saying that Christianity is not a true religion but it is not for me right now.
European post-modernism meets Colombian faith - the result: mutual incomprehension.

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