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Pope to Young Kenyans: Reject Tribalism

  • Jill Craig

Pope Francis waves to local residents as he drives to St. Joseph The Worker Catholic Church in the Kangemi slum of Nairobi, Kenya Friday, Nov. 27, 2015.

Pope Francis waves to local residents as he drives to St. Joseph The Worker Catholic Church in the Kangemi slum of Nairobi, Kenya Friday, Nov. 27, 2015.

On his final day in Nairobi Friday, Pope Francis visited a slum and condemned what he called the "injustices" of urban poverty and substandard living conditions. He placed the blame on what he called a selfish minority clinging to power and wealth.

Speaking at the St. Joseph the Worker Catholic Parish in Nairobi’s Kangemi slum, Pope Francis did not shy away from making his thoughts known on urban poverty.

“I am here,” he said, “because I want you to know that your joys and hopes, your troubles and your sorrows, are not indifferent to me. I realize the difficulties which you experience daily. How can I not denounce the injustices which you suffer?"

The crowd cheered as the pope said that to deny a family water, under any bureaucratic pretext whatsoever, was a great injustice. He said lack of access to infrastructure and basic services is a serious problem. He included on this list toilets, trash collection, electricity, roads, schools, hospitals, sports centers, and even studios and workshops for artisans and craftsmen.

The pontiff chastised what he called “minorities who cling to power and wealth and selfishly squander.” He said they force a growing majority to flee to substandard living quarters even though God gave the earth to the whole human race without exclusion.

Grace Njoroge attended the event and is glad the pope highlighted the struggles of slum dwellers.

“Because, whatever Papa was saying is what has Kenya to have so many slums, because of this land grabbing by private developers. And also you find that you cannot have access to water,” he said.

Kenyan army officers attend as Pope Francis leads a mass in Kenya's capital Nairobi, November 26, 2015.

Kenyan army officers attend as Pope Francis leads a mass in Kenya's capital Nairobi, November 26, 2015.

But Pope Francis also praised the poor, whom he said the ‘language of exclusion’ often disregards.

“You are able to weave bonds of belonging and togetherness which convert overcrowding into an experience of community,” he said, “in which the walls of the ego are torn down and the barriers of selfishness overcome."

He said they are able to "weave bond of belonging" that "convert overcrowding into an experience of community."

From Kangemi, Pope Francis headed to a rally with thousands of youth at a sports stadium.

The crowd cheered as he arrived in his popemobile.

Crowds listen to Pope Francis at Kasarani Stadium, Nairobi, Nov. 27, 2015. (L. Rugava/VOA)

Crowds listen to Pope Francis at Kasarani Stadium, Nairobi, Nov. 27, 2015. (L. Rugava/VOA)

The pope took questions from young people and spoke off script. He urged them to resist corruption, comparing it to sugar, saying that one may develop a taste for it, but ultimately, it’s destructive.

He also called for an end to tribalism, an issue that continues to plague Kenya, and he advocated for education and jobs as a way to prevent young people from being radicalized.

Morris Kirimi says he plans to heed the pope’s messages from the last two days.

“The way he gives his speeches and messages, is quite convincing, he’ll have an influence on decision makers and even upon myself as an individual. I am feeling influenced and even now, I’m feeling that I should mind more about the poor, mind about the environment, and fight for peace,” he said.

The pope left Kenya Friday and arrived in Uganda, the second country on his inaugural Africa tour.

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