Francis visits a slum: You practise values that are not listed on the stock exchange

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Poep Francis reaches the Kangemi slum

Francis visits a slum: You practise values that are not listed on the stock exchange

By Andrea Tornielli in Nairobi

Francis visited the Kangemi slum that is home to over 100,000 people and lacks services and a sewerage system. He said we cannot disregard “the dreadful injustice of urban exclusion. These are wounds inflicted by minorities who cling to power and wealth, commit ourselves to ensuring that every family has dignified housing, access to drinking water, a toilet, reliable sources of energy for lighting”

“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 over 100,000 people living here, without a sewerage 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. There are many children sitting on the ground. Francis greeted the sick who are wheelchair-bound, he asks to be blessed by a priest in a wheelchair.

The Pope was greeted by a resident of the slum, Pamela Akwede, who reminded him that 60% of Nairobi’s population lives in the slums, which only occupy 5% of the city’s total area. Sister Mary Killeen stressed that a greater presence of religious is needed in the poor neighbourhoods.

Francis, who had sent many priests to live in the slums when he was Archbishop of Buenos Aires, was visibly happy: “I feel very much at home sharing these moments with brothers and sisters who, and I am not ashamed to say this, have a special place in my life and my decisions.” But 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.”

“We see the unjust distribution of land (if not in this neighbourhood, certainly in others),” the Pope continued, “which leads in many cases to entire families having to pay excessive and unfair rents for utterly unfit housing. I am also aware of the serious problem posed by faceless “private developers” who hoard areas of land and even attempt to appropriate the playgrounds of your children’s schools.”

“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”. “I also appreciate the struggles of those women who fight heroically to protect their sons and daughters from these dangers. I ask God that that the authorities may embark, together with you, upon the path of social inclusion.

All this is “not a random combination of unrelated problems. They are a consequence of new forms of colonialism”. “Indeed, countries are frequently pressured to adopt policies typical of the culture of waste, like those aimed at lowering the birth rate, which seek “to legitimize the present model of distribution, where a minority believes that it has the right to consume in a way which can never be universalized”.

“In this regard,” Francis said, “I would propose a renewed attention to the idea of a respectful urban integration”. “We need integrated cities which belong to everyone. 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 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.”

Fri, 11/27/2015 - 12:15
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