Pope's appeal for human dignity on visit to Nairobi slum

Pope Francis is welcomed to the Kangemi slum in Nairobi
Pope Francis is welcomed to the Kangemi slum in Nairobi

Today, on his final day in Kenya, Pope Francis visited a slum in the heart of Nairobi run by the Jesuits - Kangemi. There are approximately 2.5 million slum dwellers in Nairobi, representing 60% of the city’s population and occupying just 6% of the land. The Pope’s visit to Kangemi was the first event of his day, and, according to Linda Bordoni of Vatican Radio, it was perhaps the most important and poignant. “He has made walking with the poor a top priority of his pontificate right from the very beginning,” she says, “and the local parish, St Joseph’s, is run by the Jesuits.

"Kangemi is known as ‘Nairobi’s friendly slum’ because it is less dangerous – less harrowing in its desperate poverty – than some of the other six slums in the city," says Linda. "The Jesuit-led Church where parishioners and a selection of slum dwellers from all the other slums of the city spruced up to welcome him is small and simple: just the kind of place I think Pope Francis feels at home in.”

A special place in Pope's life

Pope Francis used the opportunity of his visit to Kangemi to issue a hard-hitting appeal for social inclusion, education, protection for families – a response to what he called the consequences of new forms of colonisation. He told those present that they have a special place in his life, saying he knows their joys, their hopes and their sorrows: “How can I not denounce the injustices which you suffer?”

Many hope that the authorities in Kenya will heed Pope Francis’ urgent call to give all families dignified housing, access to drinking water, a toilet, reliable streets, schools and hospitals, as well as areas for sport, recreation and art.

“Although he was close and familiar in his attitude and unspoken body language, his words contained strong socio-political overtones,” commented Linda Bordoni, "as he talked of the dreadful injustice of urban exclusion and of the ‘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’.”