Says basic services and opportunities must exist to serve "infinite human dignity”
“I feel at home among you!” On the final day of his visit to Kenya, Pope Francis drove down the dirt road leading to Kangemi, one of Nairobi’s slums, which is situated at the bottom of a small valley that joins onto another slum. There are more than 100,000 people living here without a sewage system and without services, in dwellings made out of tin and wood. The meeting took place in the Jesuit-run Church of St. Joseph the Worker.
Before denouncing the “injustices” suffered by the inhabitants of the slum, Francis talked about the “wisdom of poor neighbourhoods” and about the Gospel values which an opulent society, anaesthetized by unbridled consumption, would seem to have forgotten.”
“You are able to weave bonds of belonging and togetherness, which convert overcrowding into an experience of community in which the walls of the ego are torn down and the barriers of selfishness overcome.” He mentioned values such as “solidarity, giving one’s life for others, preferring birth to death, providing Christian burial to one’s dead, finding a place for the sick in one’s home, sharing bread with the hungry” so that “where 10 eat, 12 can eat,” Francis said quoting a document produced by Argentinian priests working in the villas miserias. “Values 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. 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.”
After recalling that “the path of Jesus began on the peripheries, it goes from the poor and with the poor, towards others,” the pope said that “to see these signs of good living that increase daily in your midst 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.”
“One very serious problem,” Francis underlined, “in this regard is the lack of access to infrastructures and basic services. By this I mean toilets, sewers, drains, refuse collection, electricity, roads, as well as schools, hospitals, recreational and sport centres, studios and workshops for artists and craftsmen. I refer in particular to access to drinking water. Access to safe drinkable water is a basic and universal human right, since it is essential to human survival, and to deny a family water, under any bureaucratic pretext whatsoever, is a great injustice, especially when one profits from this need.”
Francis talked about the spread of violence and about “criminal organizations, serving economic or political interests” that use children and young people as “canon fodder for their ruthless business affairs.”
The pope called 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.”
“I realize that you are already doing much, but I ask to remember this is not just another task; it may instead be the most important task of all, because ‘the Gospel is addressed in a special way to the poor,’” Francis said, quoting Benedict XVI.
The pope concluded with an invitation: “Let us together pray, work and commit ourselves to ensuring that every family has dignified housing, access to drinking water, a toilet, reliable sources of energy for lighting, cooking and improving their homes; that every neighbourhood has streets, squares, schools, hospitals, areas for sport, recreation and art; that basic services are provided to each of you; that your appeals and your pleas for greater opportunity can be heard; that all can enjoy the peace and security which they rightfully deserve on the basis of their infinite human dignity.”