On the 25-27 November, 2015 Pope Francis will make his maiden trip to Kenya. His visit comes years later after John Paul II’s last visit in 1995. His decision to come to Kenya is one that has drawn much excitement, and many preparations are underway to give him a warm reception. Kenya has faced many setbacks in the recent past, moreso due to terrorist attacks that have left many devastated and in fear; therefore, the theme of the papal visit: “Stand firm and be strong”, is much relevant.
Kenya is a country that I have called home for two years now and a lot has been happening: from winning gold medals and breaking records in athletics, technological boom, to a great economic take-off. Prior to coming to Africa, Kenya, I served as a Swiss Guard to Pope Benedict XVI during his entire pontificate (2005-2013). It was a great privilege not only to serve him but also to learn from a humble servant in the vinyard of the Lord. To date I can still recall every moment shared in his presence, from the cross eye moment to even a simple conversation with him at the foot of a lift. Pope Benedict exemplified what it means to be detached from power, he did not consider power as something to graple over, but in his position, he understood that he had a clear mission, and when he had accomplished it, he prefered to step down.
Pope Francis has been advocating for leadership founded on common good and the golden rule, leadership that is built on humility as well as tenderness, and, among others, that takes into consideration:
Pope Francis, in chapter 4 of the encyclical on the environment Laudato Si’, brings to light the fact that the environment cannot be considered in isolation. “Nature cannot be regarded as something separate from ourselves or as a mere setting in which we live,” writes the Pope.
These interrelationships enable Francis to see that “we are not faced with two separate crises, one environmental and the other social, but rather one complex crisis which is both social and environmental.” As a result, “Strategies for a solution demand an integrated approach to combating poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded, and at the same time protecting nature.” In such an “economic ecology,” the protection of the environment is then seen as “an integral part of the development process and cannot be considered in isolation from it.”
Pope Francis has criticized the “cult of money” driving the global financial system and asserted that “the greatness of a society is found in the ways it treats those most in need, those who have nothing apart from their poverty.” In his address before a joint meeting of Congress on 24th September 2015, Pope Francis praised capitalism but said it must not overlook the poor. “It goes without saying that part of this great effort is the creation and distribution of wealth. The right use of natural resources, the proper application of technology and the harnessing of the spirit of enterprise are essential elements of an economy which seeks to be modern, inclusive and sustainable,” he said. “Business is a noble vocation, directed to producing wealth and improving the world. It can be a fruitful source of prosperity for the area in which it operates, especially if it sees the creation of jobs as an essential part of its service to the common good.”
In this era when the youth are weighed down by difficult and demanding things Pope Francis empathetically poses on the need to find paths of hope in the situations in which we live. Francis advises, “what we need most is Hope”. In his address to students in Cuba at the Fr. Félix Varela Cultural Center, Havana, on 20th September 2015 he stated that this hope is kept alive by these three ideas: Hope is a path made of memory and discernment, Hope is a path taken with others, and Hope is a path of solidarity. Definitely, this is a message Pope Francis needs to share with the Kenyan population, especially with the youth who will assemble in Kasarani on the 27th November.
The Kenya that the world needs to see is the Kenya of Wangari Mathai, the Kenya of Jomo Kenyatta, the Kenya that chooses progress, the Kenya that looks into and dreams of a great future.
Certainly, on the 26th November in the University of Nairobi during the Holy Mass, celebrated by Pope Francis, this image will not only be seen but it will also be felt in hearts of many Kenyans.
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Strathmore Business School.