Pope Francis’s historic visit to Kenya marks a high point for a country that has endured many afflictions in recent times.
Expectations have been palpable because the Pope carries a message of hope, peace, reconciliation, and forgiveness.
Kenya has suffered a series of terrorist attacks that have left a trail of death and anguish.
The Westgate attack, in which 67 people were killed, and the Garissa University College one last April that left 148 people dead, stand out as some of our recent devastations.
The frequency of the attacks and the scale of deaths have cast the country in negative light, dimming its prospects for investment.
At the political level, the country is deeply divided and attempts to rally citizens for a common cause remain elusive. Ethnicity thrives and defines relationships.
The economy has been battered by both external and internal factors.
Corruption and mismanagement have taken centre stage and created a sense of helplessness in confronting them.
Unemployment and related social vices have combined to create desperation.
Amid all this, the Pope chose to start his maiden African tour in Kenya, indicating that the country still takes pride of place among the comity of nations.
The country may have been battered, its people devastated and exasperated, but there is hope when the Pope comes visiting.
This is especially poignant, coming just a few months after the visit of US President Barack Obama, who also brought a message of hope.
Looking at the roll of dignitaries and ordinary people present at the Pope’s address last night at State House, it was clear that the Pope inspired the spirit of unity and reconciliation.
Former presidents Moi and Kibaki, opposition leaders, top government officials, industry chiefs, and ordinary people all came together to welcome and hear the Pontiff speak.
The lesson is that although there may be some things that divide us, there are many more others that bring us together.
ENDURING LEGACY OF HUMILITY
Indeed, the Pope’s enduring legacy of humility and selflessness endears him to millions across the world.
Since ascending to office two years ago, the Pope has transformed the Catholic Church by advancing radical, yet practical ideas.
He has shaken dogmatic practices and allowed a fresh breath of air within the church.
His advocacy for tolerance for homosexuals, divorce, and married priests has humbled conservative Catholics and served to depict the Pope as a caring and understanding spiritual leader.
Even more significantly, the Pontiff has focused his attention on dealing with practical realities such as environmental conservation and the threat of climate change, global wars, social and economic inequalities, and co-existence between Christians and Muslims.
His pronouncements yesterday showed that he is a leader full of empathy and love.
He epitomises the Christian faith in word and deed. He sides with the afflicted and tormented. In his speech, he vouched for the poor, the youth, and the vulnerable.
The Pope’s visit and his blessings should mark a turning point for this country by re-invigorating and re-energising us to focus on what matters and to set aside the divisions and negative aspects that pull us down.
SOURCE: DAILY NATION