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Hold joy and hope for slum dwellers

By Job Weru | November 28th 2015

Messages of hope, justice and the need to help the needy dominated Pope Francis’ tour of informal settlements in Kangemi, an area that is home to thousands of poor Kenyans.

The Pope assured the slum dwellers of better days ahead, despite the problems they undergo in informal settlements.

“We must find a solution to these injustices and celebrate victory together. This is not just another task because the gospel is addressed in a special way to the poor,” he said.

He lamented poor sanitation, lack of basic amenities, especially clean drinking water and other atrocities meted against the poor living in slums.

He said access to clean drinking water is a basic need which every human being deserve despite their backgrounds.

“It is a great injustice to deny families safe and clean drinking water. It even becomes worse when we see injustices like families paying unfairly excessive rent,” he said.

The people's pope also castigated rogue landlords and private developers who grab public amenities supposed to benefit the poor.

He noted that it becomes a serious problem when playing grounds meant for children of the poor are grabbed and developed by a few selfish individuals seeking to enrich themselves.

“A serious problem is when lack of access to key infrastructure like roads, toilets and other needful amenities happens,” said the Pope.

Pope Francis was addressing faithful at St Joseph The Worker Catholic Church in Kangemi, during his third and final day in the country.

The Pope entered the church at 8.35am, his entry igniting ululations from enthusiastic worshippers.

Call for fairness

The choir, led by radio journalist Benjamin Wangare, belted out harmonious sounds of ‘Bwana asifiwe, Bwana asifiwe, Mwathani arogochwo’ song, as the Pope conducted his traditional drill of greeting and hugging the congregants, among them the sick who sat at the front of the church.

The Father in Charge of St Joseph the Worker Church, Father Paschal Mwijage and Archbishop Martin Kivuva hosted the Pope.

Unlike on Thursday when Pope Francis conducted a full Catholic Church mass at the University of Nairobi grounds, yesterday’s event was not a formal church service.

It involved a procession by Pontifical Missionaries Children (PMC), led by Sharon Waruguru, 13, who presented a Bible to the Pope.

The faithful were taken through a gospel reading borrowed from Mathew 25: 31-46. The Pope’s sermon may have been guided by the reading, which addresses the advice that Jesus gave to Christians if they want to go to heaven.

Pope Francis called for fairness, as he reiterated the Catholic Church’s role of helping the poor. “Thank you for welcoming me here. I came because I want you to hold joy and hope. I know the injustices you suffer,” he said.

The Pope decried overcrowding in slums and other informal settlements and other challenges faced by the communities.

"We must provide Christian values. The culture of neighbourhood in this reason has positive things..... Sharing with the hungry and the suffering must be upheld,” he said.

Sister Mary Kileen from Mukuru Promotion Centre caused huge applause when she decried massive grabbing of public land by influential people in Government and private sector.

Archbishop Martin Kivuva noted that the presence of the church in a slum has helped alleviate problems the residents face, especially through Caritas, a Catholic Church development organisation.

Immediately after delivering his speech, the Pope strode to the back of the church where he mingled with Sunday school children.

At one moment, the Pope kissed a toddler at the sentry where the children sat on a carpeted floor.

“I came here as early as 5am to see and touch the Pope and I am so happy that I was the first to greet him. I am so happy,” said Lewis Augustine Muchoki, 4, from World of Academy School in Kangemi.

Ethan Kinyanjui, 4, from Uthiru Genesis School said his prayers were answered when the Pope entered the sentry where the children were confined.

Hold cassock

“I have been seeing him on television but when he came towards us, I was determined to at least get hold of his cassock, but was surprised when he stretched his hand and greeted me,” said Kinyanjui.

Earlier before the Pope walked to the children’s dock, Kinyanjui had told The Standard on Saturday that he had personal message he wanted to tell the Pope.

“I will tell him that I saw him on television,” he said.

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