NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 20 – In Nairobi’s Kangemi area, it’s evident that the residents feel lucky and appreciate the honour to host the head of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis next Friday.
It’s not very easy to find our way to St Joseph’s the Worker Catholic Church which is tucked inside the highly populated slum.
But with the help of motor bike operators, traders at the Kangemi market, children and even curious passersby who are more than willing to help, we easily access the humble church.
A freshly made murram road which of course the locals are appreciating and making use of – is clear indication that the Pope’s visit to the slum will come with ‘double blessings’ on top of putting the slum on the world map.
“It is God’s gift that the Pope is coming to this church. It is not a cathedral and it is not a big church. This is not a rich area, it is just a slum,” Fr Melchior Marandu who is in charge of the preparations at the church says.
Some members of the church cannot hide their joy as they make final touches to clean, decorate and paint bits of the church and furniture.
“People around are very delighted because the Pope is coming to be in solidarity with us. That’s a powerful sign; he is telling us that we are not forgotten, it affirms our human dignity that the categories of evaluating human beings is not by material, things, material or gold but we have self worth because we are children God. We are radically equal the rich and the poor,” Fr Marandu explains.
Kangemi is one of the slums in Nairobi where residents live on less than a dollar a day.
Abject poverty, poor sanitation, insecurity and high levels of unemployment are common misfortunes that the residents grapple with every single day to make a living almost out of nothing.
It is estimated that about 100,000 people live in Kangemi with 20,000 of them being Catholics.
On Friday, 1,200 people selected from 11 different slums in Nairobi will fill the church to listen and interact with the Pope.
The selection was done to ensure wide representation of slum dwellers irrespective of their religion.
Some politicians in the slums have also been invited.
Attendees will wear name tags and sit on designated seats to ensure order and also for purposes of security.
During the interaction with the Pope, photo slides showcasing way of life in different Kenyan slums will be playing for the Pope and also the slum dwellers to watch.
According to Fr Marandu, the Pope will walk through the centre of the church and shake hands with some of the people.