Another great tragedy has occurred, the El Salvador earthquake of 13 January. The scenes are terrifying: pain and inconsolable mourning for the dead, entire families disappeared, this neighbour lost five children, a whole family buried in that house.
As days go by and news comes in from the interior, the realisation grows as to what a catastrophe it has really been, greater than anyone thought. Most of the houses destroyed were adobe and clay, inhabited by those who cannot build with cement blocks. Earthquakes, like cemeteries, manifest the unfair inequality of a society and so demonstrate its deepest truth. Some tombs are sumptuous and spacious, great mausoleums with marble sculptures. Others crowd together virtually without names and crosses, anonymous, where the majority lie. Reminding us of cemeteries, earthquakes tragically portray the parable of Jesus: There was a rich man who feasted every day. At the foot of his table lay a poor man, Lazarus, who waited for crumbs that fell from the table?
It is illusory to invoke building codes and norms of security when the poor lack the resources to fulfil them. And going to the root, it is insulting that basic housing for the majority has not been provided — not even close — when grand buildings proliferate, and highways, hotels and airports are constantly improved. Even in El Salvador. (Excerpt from a reflection dated 16 January).