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Pope Francis should have addressed immorality and drug abuse

UREPORT
By Vincent Ogaya | December 2nd 2015

With Pope Francis having wound up his visit, it is undoubtedly the hope of everyone that his message, especially on tribalism and corruption, has sunk in.

As a progressive leader of the church, he dwelt on issues of gender and generational inclusivity by calling for an end to those practices that demean women and also by creating time for the youth. This echoed one of President Obama’s messages during his July visit when he cautioned against the tradition of handling women and girls as second class citizens.

Indeed, a host of oppressive practices continue to repress the growth of the Kenyan woman. Many will agree that among the numerous outdated practices that plague the prospects of women in Kenya are domestic violence and sexual assault. In addition, female genital mutilation coupled with early forced marriages conspire to deny women opportunities for education and employment.

The message on strengthening family values was particularly important for a country whose families are increasingly facing several challenges occasioned by modern lifestyles. For instance, incidents of unsafe abortion are creeping in at a very fast rate.

For a Pope who has been steadfast in his message on God’s mercy, genuine concern for the poor and championing of inter-faith dialogue, the Holy Father has always called on the church to be supportive of women who are single parents as well as those who have procured abortions but have genuinely repented. Because of this, some have accused him of backtracking on family values.

The Pope also built a strong case for young people indicating that they are the ones to chart a way forward for the future. Because of this, he created time specifically for the youth who were mostly drawn from primary and secondary schools as well as institutions of higher learning.

He passionately responded to concerns of corruption, tribalism and radicalisation as raised by the youth.

While he spoke bluntly on these vices, I feel he was a bit subtle with the young people especially on where the shoe pinches them the most. Concerns of immorality and drug abuse were peripherally mentioned while national issues took centre stage.

This is because what really ails a majority of the youth in this country lies in the areas of teenage sex, early pregnancies, unsafe abortions, drug and substance abuse, HIV and Aids as well as deviance. A number of cases point to this. In the recent past, there have been reports of youngsters being caught in a school bus having sex under the influence of drugs. Others were also hounded out of a bar in Nairobi.

The Kenya Demographic Health Survey of 2014 shows that the age of sexual debut currently stands at 10, a very negative indicator that could be the main cause for all the other problems mentioned above.

It is also worrying that one in three HIV infections occur among adolescents.

Aids is also the leading killer of these young people, given that deaths among other groups are decreasing but not so for adolescents.

The Pontiff should therefore have had a direct message to the youth regarding these challenges and how to cope in a highly dynamic world.

The youngsters also missed the opportunity to highlight these issues, perhaps for fear of embarrassment.

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