Jesus in the Dumping Sites: Doing theology in the overlaps of human and material waste – Stephan de Beer

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Jesus’ option for the poor should be reclaimed in a clear theological and ecclesial option for
the dumping sites of our cities and towns. That is the basic proposal of this article. Reflecting upon three different dumping sites – different in size, age and history – this article will explore the central thread of material and human waste, often dealt with almost as synonymous, concentrated and overlapping in these marginal spaces. It will additionally explore the theological and ecclesial challenges, but also possible opportunities, visions and gifts presented by them. The paradoxical (and sometimes toxic) interconnectedness between waste management and sanitised cities will be considered, as well as its relation to mediating or denying human dignity. The stories of Smokey Mountain in Manila, the Zabbaleen community in Mokattam Village, Cairo, and the Hulene Dump in Maputo, will be presented as part of this reflection. They will be read as mirrors to the proliferation of similar dumping sites on the fringes of South African cities. An outline is offered for a theological-ecclesial praxis emerging from the dumping sites, as well as a retrieval of possible contributions from these sites to the broader urban public theological reflection.

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