During his tri-nation visit to Africa this week, Pope Francis made a stop at a slum in Nairobi and praised those he met for their love of and emphasis on community and relationships — over what he called a vacuous, “unbridled consumption” that often plagues the West. “I want in first place to uphold these values which you practice, values which are not quoted in the stock exchange, are not subject to speculation, and have no market price,” the Pope said during the Nov. 27 meeting at a Jesuit church in the Kangemi neighborhood.
“I congratulate you, I accompany you and I want you to know that the Lord never forgets you. The path of Jesus began on the peripheries, it goes from the poor and with the poor, towards others.”
Your values, he added, are "grounded in the fact each human being is more important than the god of money. Thank you for reminding us that another type of culture is possible.”
The Pope was in Kenya Nov. 25-27 as part of a larger African tour that will also take him to Uganda and the Central African Republic later this week. In addition to addressing the United Nations office in Nairobi during his stay in the country, the Pope also visited local priests, seminarians and religious. Tossing his prepared remarks to the latter aside, he issued a frank warning to them that if anything disgusts God, it’s the attitude of indifference. He also gave some practical advice, such as keeping the Lord at the center of their lives through prayer and the sacraments, and stressed that the Church is not a business, but rather a mystery intended to serve others. On the afternoon of Nov. 26, Pope Francis attended a gathering at the football field of the local St. Mary's School, where representatives of Community of Sant'Egidio came with those who've benefitted from the organization in different cities throughout Kenya.
The community has helped fight AIDS in the country, treating more than 11,000 people. According to Sant'Egidio, Pope Francis wanted to personally greet all of the children present who'd been born healthy, thanks to the program. In his talk with the neighborhood on Friday, the Pope clarified that his praise for their valuing the most important things in life in “no way entails a disregard for the dreadful injustice of urban exclusion.” “These are wounds inflicted by minorities who cling to power and wealth, who selfishly squander while a growing majority is forced to flee to abandoned, filthy and run-down peripheries,” he said.
“One very serious problem in this regard is the lack of access to infrastructures and basic services,” the Pope added.
“By this I mean toilets, sewers, drains, refuse collection, electricity, roads, as well as schools, hospitals, recreational and sport centers, studios and workshops for artists and craftsmen. I refer in particular to access to drinking water.”
“To deny a family water, under any bureaucratic pretext whatsoever, is a great injustice, especially when one profits from this need,” he said.
Pope Francis also lamented the “situation of indifference and hostility” experienced by poor neighborhoods, which he said is “aggravated when violence spreads and criminal organizations, serving economic or political interests, use children and young people as 'canon fodder' for their ruthless business affairs.”
“These realities which I have just mentioned are not a random combination of unrelated problems,” he noted. “They are a consequence of new forms of colonialism.”
In response to this, “we need to go beyond the mere proclamation of rights which are not respected in practice, to implementing concrete and systematic initiatives capable of improving the overall living situation, and planning new urban developments of good quality for housing future generations.”
“The social and environmental debt owed to the poor of cities can be paid by respecting their sacred right to the 'three Ls': Land, Lodging, Labour,” he emphasized. “This is not a question of philanthropy; rather it is a duty incumbent upon all of us.”
Francis then called for practical provision for every family, including: “dignified housing, access to drinking water, a toilet, reliable sources of energy for lighting, cooking and improving their homes.”
He also insisted “that every neighborhood has streets, squares, schools, hospitals, areas for sport, recreation and art; that basic services are provided to each of you.”
Pope Francis then concluded his remarks by calling on “all Christians, and their pastors in particular, to renew their missionary zeal, to take initiative in the face of so many situations of injustice, to be involved in their neighbours’ problems, to accompany them in their struggles, to protect the fruits of their communitarian labour and to celebrate together each victory, large or small.”