Why is Halle still so poor?

It´s around nine o´clock in the morning when we pass by the train station in the Silberhöhe. After the daily morning prayer and breakfast with the Franciscans we leave the monastery to work this morning at the Caritas, a social store in one of the poor neighborhoods in Halle. And if our bikes are not broken we´re having a nice fifteen minutes of cycling. Truly, we use our bikes as much as possible but in the first two weeks two bikes and one lock already broke… It´s not easy to live a life in simplicity.

However, today the weather is good, the bikes are repaired, and we go for it. But cycling through the Silberhöhe is not the most pleasant bike tour you can wish. Ugly grey flats, bumpy roads, broken glass on the ground, mothers screaming to their children and people sitting on the corner of the streets drinking beer, it´s nine o´clock in the morning, welcome to the Silberhöhe.

During our stay here we are wondering about the people who are living in these circumstances. We´re asking ourselves the question why the people of Halle are still so poor? And we´re reflecting on the question what it means to be poor?

The unemployment rate in Halle is above the average. In January 2016 the rate is 11,6%, where the average of the federal state Sachsen-Anhalt is 10,9%, and the average over whole Germany is 6,7%. You can simple conclude that there are not enough jobs available but during our stay we see more. First of all we realize the welfare of the west-European world. Bálint is from Hungary and just finished his law studies. A starter salary would be for him around the two and a half euro per hour. The people in Halle are receiving way more by the social welfare system. And this is not because the life in Halle is much more expensive than the life in Hungary. The price for rents of flats for example, or the price for food is the same in Germany as it is in Hungary. So, in economic perspective the people of Halle are not poor at all. Maybe their neighborhood doesn´t look that nice but they can provide a quit luxury lifestyle.

Although the people in Halle are not poor in economic perspective we all label them as poor. The way they dress, the way they raise their children, the way they spend their time, it all tells us that this people are poor. But in what way are they poor?

In the social store Caritas we´re helping with building up second-hand furniture. By this we meet a lot of volunteers from the neighborhood. They telling us that many people in the Silberhöhe have given up their lives. They don´t want to have a job anymore, they don´t care about their futures, and they don’t have a purpose in life. In this way the people in the Silberhöhe are indeed poor. And in the same time this volunteers are showing us that another life is possible. By earning nothing, they working every day for nothing more than just to work, to socialize, to not to give up.

The same is true for a woman who attends our Taizé prayer very often. When she comes home from her job in Leipzig, and is tired after a shift of twelve hours, her neighbors are telling her she is crazy. She also can quit and just receive the same amount of money from the government. But she doesn´t. She wants to earn her own money to care for herself and her daughter. She doesn´t give up her job, she cares about her future, she still have a purpose in life.

In the afternoon we often are helping at the YMCA where children coming to make their homework and for playing together. Today I´m playing a game with a girl with brown and broken teethes. It´s a cute girl to see but she don´t care to play unfair. And when I try to correct her she start to scream. In a moment it becomes so clear to me in what kind of family this child grow up and how her lived is determined by this. I´m touched. And again I´m wondering why her parents gave up to look for a job. Why did they give up to care about their future and the future of their child? And why weren´t they able to find a purpose in their life?

 Exaudi orationem meam, et clamor meus ad te veniat (song of Taizé)


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