Arriving in Kenya, pope says tolerance, respect are keys to peace

IMAGE: CNS photo/Dai Kurokawa, EPA

By Cindy Wooden

NAIROBI, Kenya (CNS) — With
security concerns looming over his visit, Pope Francis arrived in Kenya Nov. 25
urging tolerance and respect among people of different religions and different
ethnic groups.

During the less than seven-hour
flight, Pope Francis told reporters the only thing he was worried about were
the mosquitoes, and after greeting each of the 74 reporters individually the
pope took the microphone again and said, “Protect yourselves from the

Speaking to a small group of
reporters as he made his way around the plane, the pope also confirmed he would
visit four cities, including Ciudad Juarez on the U.S.-Mexican border, when he
visits Mexico in February.

In his brief remarks to the
whole group, the pope did not mention the security concerns or the travel
advisories issued by many governments after the terrorist attacks Nov. 13 in

Pope Francis was greeted at
Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport by a small group of dancers,
women ululating and President Uhuru Kenyatta, son of the nation’s first
president, for whom the airport is named. After the brief arrival ceremony Pope
Francis traveled past hundreds of offices and factories where employees came
out and lined the road to greet him.

The formal welcoming ceremony
took place at Kenya’s State House, where the pope met with the president, government
and civic leaders and members of the diplomatic corps.

In his speech, the pope focused
on the values needed to consolidate democracy in Kenya and throughout Africa,
starting with building trust and cohesion among members of the different ethnic
and religious groups on the continent.

“Experience shows that
violence, conflict and terrorism feed on fear, mistrust and the despair born of
poverty and frustration,” he said. “To the extent that our societies
experience divisions — whether ethnic, religious or economic — all men and
women of good will are called to work for reconciliation and peace, forgiveness
and healing.”

Kenyatta told the pope that
colonization left Africa with artificial borders dividing communities, which
has created tensions, but war and violence on the continent also has been
fueled by “our own selfish politicization of our ethnic and religious

As the U.N. Climate Conference
was about to begin in Paris, Pope Francis also spoke of the traditional African
value of safeguarding creation and of the need to find “responsible models
of economic development” that will not destroy the earth and the future.

“Kenya has been blessed not
only with immense beauty in its mountains, rivers and lakes, its forests,
savannahs and semi-deserts, but also by an abundance of natural resources,”
the pope said.

Kenyans recognize them as gifts
of God and have a “culture of conservation,” which they are called to
help others embrace as well, the pope said.

“The grave environmental
crisis facing our world demands an ever greater sensitivity to the relationship
between human beings and nature,” he said. “We have a responsibility
to pass on the beauty of nature in its integrity to future generations, and an
obligation to exercise a just stewardship of the gifts we have received.”

On a continent where the population
is predominantly young, but unemployment among young adults is high, Pope
Francis also urged the Kenyan government officials and representatives of other
countries to recognize that the young, too, are a gift from God to be assisted
with care.

“To protect them, to invest
in them and to offer them a helping hand is the best way we can ensure a future
worthy of the wisdom and spiritual values dear to their elders, values which
are the very heart and soul of a people,” the pope said.

Knowing that he was speaking in
front of the country’s political and economic leaders, Pope Francis reminded
them that the Gospel insists that “from those to whom much has been given,
much will be demanded.”

“Show genuine concern for
the needs of the poor, the aspirations of the young and a just distribution of
the natural and human resources with which the Creator has blessed your
country,” he told them.

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