By MaryAnne Wanjiku Kamau
Pope Francis is coming to Kenya at a time when majority of the country’s youth are engrossed with hash tags and retweets, more concerned with likes and follow backs, determined to outdo the legendary mistakes of their peers, experiment with everything that creates the impression of “cool” and acting ‘grown’ before they are grown up than they are with what is moral, what is right, what is expected of them and what impact their reckless decisions will have on their future or that of the robust and promising country they were born into.
Above all, what role a belief in a greater being that is taught through religion can have on their lives.
The visit by the Pope may be the jolt the youth need, the ultimate reminder that religion – more so practicing it – still plays a huge role in our day to day lives. The fanfare associated with his coming will no doubt draw their attention to the lessons they are bound to learn from his talk with the youth from all over the country at the Kasarani Stadium and (as well as) his subsequent meeting with leaders and Catholic faithful.
Speaking during the 30th world youth day, The Pope’s message to the youth was “Dear young friends, in a culture of relativism and the ephemeral, many preach the importance of ‘enjoying’ the moment,” he continues. “They say that it is not worth making a life-long commitment, making a definitive decision, ‘forever’, because we do not know what tomorrow will bring. I ask you, instead, to be revolutionaries, I ask you to swim against the tide; yes, I am asking you to rebel against this culture that sees everything as temporary and that ultimately believes you are incapable of responsibility that believes you are incapable of true love.”
Spiritual youth in Kenya who ‘swim against the tide’ are often tagged as ‘Holy Joe’ or ‘Holy Betty’ and face a lot of criticism from their peers.
On Kenya being the stage for the Pope’s address in Africa for the first time youth I spoke to felt that this signified the magnitude of influence Kenya has both as an economic hub and a religious state. Others felt it was the reminder the youth need on the importance of religion and a symbol of hope for all those who have been criticized for their unending faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Pope Francis urged young people to also discover that God can be ‘seen’ in the face of our brothers and sisters, especially those who are most forgotten: the poor, the hungry, those who thirst, strangers, the sick and those imprisoned.
He wrote saying in order to enter into the logic of the Kingdom of Heaven, we must recognize that we are poor with the poor,” Pope Francis continues. “A pure heart is necessarily one which has been stripped bare, a heart that knows how to bend down and share its life with those most in need.”
In matters not unique to Kenya alone but will resonate with us Pope Francis said:” “I meet so many young people who say that they are tired of this world being so divided, with clashes between supporters of different factions and so many wars, in some of which religion is being used as justification for violence. We must ask the Lord to give us the grace to be merciful to those who do us wrong.
Lastly, at a time when there have been several reported incidences of teenagers being found drunk and in possession of drugs in public transport vehicles and bars, spiritual intervention might just be the motivation the society requires to put their foot down on this runaway indiscipline.
Pope Francis once said to the youth “Dear young friends, this search for happiness is shared by people of all times and all ages.”
“Dear young men and women, in Christ you find fulfilled your every desire for goodness and happiness. He alone can satisfy your deepest longings, which are so often clouded by deceptive worldly promises. “
If his worldwide tour and the above messages are anything to go by, Pope Francis arguably the most controversial Pope of the 21st century has and will continue to impart spiritual knowledge and wisdom on the youth and nation at large who lend him an ear and his impact is felt long after his departure, I would like to trust and believe his visit to Kenya will be no different.
MaryAnne Wanjiku Kamau
Postgraduate Student, USIU Africa