Pope Francis waded into the heart of a Kenyan shantytown Friday, spreading a message of acceptance and lashing out at the nation’s elite for neglecting the poor.
Francis’ visit to Kangemi aligned with his message of service to the poor during his three days in Nairobi.
In the sprawling slum filled with tin-roofed homes, he described injustices against the less fortunate as “new forms of colonialism.”
The “dreadful injustice of social exclusion” leaves the poor with an unfair distribution of land, lack of access to infrastructure and minimal basic services, he said.
“Our world has a grave social debt toward the poor who lack access to drinking water because they are denied a life consistent with their inalienable dignity,” the Pope said.
‘We are so blessed’
Kangemi residents applauded his long-term focus on the downtrodden.
“Sometimes challenges in slums almost cause us to despair and some people give up working in slums,” said Sister Mari Killeen, who works with the less fortunate.
“Your visit gives us courage. By coming here, you shine a light on the challenges. Your meeting with us gives us dignity.”
When Francis weaved through the slum’s narrow streets in his popemobile, crowds reached out to touch his hand as he waved from behind a clear protective covering.
Women ululated as children crooned Swahili welcome songs.
“I’m so happy, we are so blessed,” said Magdalene Mwikali, 36, of Kangemi.
“He’s left all those rich neighborhoods to come here,” she said. “He’s shown us we are important, that we matter, that God loves us, too.”
Excited residents have prepared for his arrival for weeks.
Leading up to Friday, volunteer residents gathered to sweep littered streets and cover dirt roads with gravel, Mwikali said. Others perched Vatican and Kenyan flags on the road leading to the church in Kangemi.