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Below the poor are the marginalised

Jaime Garralda (1)  SJ


From a distance we are all more or less the same.
When you get near, you see that they are not the same.
This happens with the “poor” and the “marginalised”.
They are enormously different.
And they cannot be treated in the same way from the social, psychological or pastoral point of view.


A poor person is a rich person without money.
But his values, his desires, his dreams, are the same.
The poor would like to have access to
good houses, services, cars...
But they have nothing.
As soon as they get something,
hey abandon a bit the life of the poor
and get close to the one they desire:
that of the rich.
I have lived during many years in “chabolas” (huts or shacks)
with the poor, and that was their dream.
The old women of my suburb
told me again and again: Signor Jaime,
I have seen one of those “poor”,
your boys...These women have not a penny.
But they are not marginalised.

The marginalised are something else.
They know that they do NOT belong to this society.
They are outside. Rejected, despised, and feared.
Especially the “evil” or bad marginalised.
Because there is also a difference.


The “good” marginalised: the serene physical
or psychic disabled,
racially discriminated…
they are marginalised.
They cannot live for the higher values of society:
good careers, good employment, good money,
form a family, succeed.
But they are another thing.
The “evil” or bad marginalised know
that they do not belong to this society.
They know that people despise, fear,
and reject them.
These are the people of drugs,
prison, AIDS, alcohol, homeless.


Never will they open a bank account.
Never will they deposit money
to gradually buy an apartment.
Never will they organize their future
even if they are a couple and have a child.
Never will they save anything.
Never will they go to the employment office.
Never will they study anything.
Never will they look at you in the eyes (neither will you).
Never will they learn a profession.

Never will they leave their controlled areas,
except in order to “plunder”.

Sometimes, in the trunk of a stolen car,
you may find great sums in bank notes.
Because they robbed them.
Or small bags of drugs that cost a fortune.
They are not poor.
They are marginalised.
Tomorrow they will be penniless,
with not so much as a speck
or grain of those drugs.
Under the impressive effects of drugs,
trembling, without having eaten
and without wanting to eat.
They may look like the poor.
They are marginalised.

Jesus Christ, it is said, “walked with the poor”.
But we must also distinguish clearly
what that means.
What profoundly identified Jesus Christ is that
he went with the marginalised.
Especially with the “evil” or bad ones.

Other saints went, and still go, with the poor:
silent people who are hungry and who are cold,
old people, sick people,
children who have problems.
The “losers” of all times.
Jesus Christ distinguished himself because
he went with the “evil” marginalised:
The tax collectors were… marginalised.
The adulterers and prostitutes were… marginalised
The sinners were… marginalised
The publicans were… marginalised
The lepers were… marginalised
The prisoners were… marginalised.

At the time of Jesus Christ
these were more or less the evil marginalised.
And if you open the Gospel,
all these people had a place of honour in his life.

I think that today,
the signs of the times call us Jesuits
to know, to understand
and to help – in some way –
the marginalised of today.
The “evil” ones.


Original Spanish
Translation by Mary Berchmans Rjm


1 Jaime Garralda works in Horizontes Abiertos (Open Horizons), an NGO which he created and which is dedicated to the care of prisoners, especially women and their young children who are in prison.