Pope sees hope in wealth found in lives of the poor

December 7, 2015

NAIROBI, KENYA - Residents of the poorest neighbourhoods in large cities around the world have a wealth that will never be quoted on the stock exchange, even though it gives life and joy to millions of people, Pope Francis said.

Their wealth is "grounded in the fact that each human being is more important than the god of money," the pope said Nov. 27 in Nairobi's Kangemi neighborhood, usually referred to as a slum.

Between 55 and 65 per cent of Nairobi's population live in the slums. Many have no drinking water, electricity, sewage system or regular garbage collection.

At a meeting in St. Joseph the Worker Church, Pamella Akwede, a resident, told the pope, "People in informal settlements live together as family, in unity and solidarity," which is evident in the celebrations of births, weddings and funerals.

"Any resident of any informal settlement survives on less than a dollar a day," she said, but fresh fruits are available and "one can get their stomach full on a cup of tea and doughnut" for the equivalent of 25 cents.

Pope Francis told the people he is obliged to denounce the injustices that keep slum dwellers living in such desperate circumstances.

But he also urged the people to recognize the values they have and that the world needs: Solidarity, celebration, taking care to bury the dead, making more room at one's simple table and taking in the sick all are characteristic of people in the world's poorest neighbourhoods.

The problems faced in the makeshift communities "are not a random combination of unrelated problems," he continued.

Those problems are "the consequence of new forms of colonialism," which see African countries as "cogs on a gigantic wheel" and a storehouse of natural resources to plunder.

Pope Francis denounced the ridiculously high rent that absentee landlords charge for "utterly unfit housing" in the slum.

He also insisted that governments have an obligation to ensure their citizens have "toilets, sewers, drains, refuse collection, electricity" and access to schools, hospitals, open space for recreation and safe drinking water.

"Access to safe, drinkable water is a basic and universal human right," he said.