Monday, September 08, 2014

Everywhere the gap is widening

This summer we returned to Sri Lanka, spending almost three weeks on the island. For eight days I was teaching at the Lanka Bible College Graduate Studies Centre and visiting a couple of baptist churches around Colombo; and for ten days we were chilling by a pool in a great hotel in Kalutara (about an hour south of Colombo).

The picture illustrates some of the changes Sri Lanka is undergoing. It's a new block that I have watched being built from my room at the Graduate Studies Centre in Dehiwala.It actually obscures my view of the sea! It's been built for the burgeoning number of urban professionals in the city. As well very comfortably appointed apartments, the complex boasts 24 hours concierge, a gym and a western-style supermarket on the ground floor.

It overlooks the station that will whisk its residents into the centre of the city for their daily grind in financial or legal services, tourism, government administration or commerce of a whole variety of types. It also overlooks the fishing community on the other side of tracks, a community that still bears all the marks of the 2004 tsunami. Indeed it's a community that offers no evidence at all of any money being spent helping the residents to rebuild after the devastation wrought on that Boxing Day ten years ago. Now, one reason for that is possibly that the community was offered housing elsewhere, inland and away from the area they know well. Many of the communities that hugged the coastline on the western side of the island were moved as the government refused to invest in communities with two miles (ish) of the sea. But it's a stark contrast with the wealth that now overlooks it.

We often walked across the tracks onto the beach, via the ramshackle dwellings, so that we could stroll in the sunshine, dipping our toes into the Indian Ocean and head up to our new favourite beach-front bar (left) that serves excellent food and afforded great views of the sunset most evenings.

Following the end of the war in 2012, Sri Lanka is undergoing something of a building boom, with construction happening all across Colombo and the along the Galle Road where hotel developers are trying to meet the government's target of building two million rooms by 2020; tourism is seen as the driver of economic prosperity. It is making a few people comparatively very rich and leaving more and more trapped in poverty, barely able to scratch a living at the bottom of the food chain.

Inequality is a feature of life across the globe; it is all the more stark in this beautiful place.

But the churches that we visited were in good heart and I'll blog about that in a follow-up to this one.

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