I cannot even begin to imagine what daily life is like for those desperate people who find themselves with no option but to live in the sewers. The dangers are obvious – serious illness, drowning, being nibbled at by rats – and then there are the local ‘death squads’ who make it there business to ‘cleanse’ the area of the most vulnerable people; they view the children and adults who are forced through fear and cruel necessity to live in such degrading and appalling conditions, as easy targets. Their humanity is denied as they are shot or set fire to.
And so their story is devastating and heartbreaking, but despite their overwhelming difficulties, their humanity does shine through; what is revealed amidst the dank, stinking sewers are human beings who have somehow managed to retain a sense of humour and a resilience that is staggering. They fight the odds each day and somehow manage to make it through intact.
And then there are those who, despite spending their formative years as a member of a despised group, have managed to get a job, find a place to live, and a family of their own. Here there is hope in abundance.
To adequately portray life in such a challenging and dangerous setting via film is an almost impossible undertaking. Nonetheless, this is exactly what the maker of the short documentary film ‘Living in the Sewers of Columbia‘ has done. The film shows those who live in the sewers as real people, with unique personalities, challenges and dreams. In a society that pushes them to the extremes, we get to see them for what they really are – people just like us.
I found ‘Living in the Sewers of Columbia‘ to be akin to an extended meditation on the marginalized and a powerful call to deep reflection. Perhaps it wasn’t coincidence that my morning bible reading the day I watched this film was Deuteronomy 15:7-11 –
“If among you, one of your brothers should become poor, in any of your towns within your land that the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart or shut your hand against your poor brother, but you shall open your hand to him and lend him sufficient for his need, whatever it may be. Take care lest there be an unworthy thought in your heart and you say, ‘The seventh year, the year of release is near,’ and your eye look grudgingly on your poor brother, and you give him nothing, and he cry to the Lord against you, and you be guilty of sin. You shall give to him freely, and your heart shall not be grudging when you give to him, because for this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in all that you undertake. For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.’
Columbia is a Christian country, yet like every other Christian country the rich are l0ved more than the poor, whilst the marginalized and despised count for nothing. We may always have the poor in our midst, but we are commanded to give them the dignity they deserve and offer them hope for the future.