NAIROBI, Nov 26 (NNN-KBC) — President Uhuru Kenyatta has humbled himself to prayers, calling on visiting Pope Francis to pray for Kenya as the country moves to tackle corruption which is threatening its social fabric.

Speaking Wednesday during a grand reception at State House here to welcome Pope Francis, who is in Kenya at the start of a three-nation African tour, the President said Kenya, like the Church, was undergoing trying moments but expressed confidence that the nation would overcome the challenges.

“Civil society, media and leaders from across our political and social spectrum have come together and made their views known and in the hearts of every Kenyan we know that we must win this war (against corruption) …. it is up to me to lead it and Holy Father, I ask for your prayers. Pray for me. Pray for Kenya,” said Kenyatta.

The Pontiff, who arrived in Kenya earlier for a three-day visit, pledged his support to the county, calling it a pillar of hope in the region.

Quoting the Bible, President Kenyatta said it was time for Kenya to heal and move forward towards progress.

“If my people, who are called by My name, will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land,” the president quoted.

The head of state acknowledged the role played by the Catholic Church in kenya’s socio-economic development, in particular initiatives spearheaded by the pontiff. Kenya has an estimated 7.4 million followers, about a third of the total population.

The president noted that 8,000 schools, five colleges and one university are run by the Catholic Church in Kenya. “I am also a beneficiary of the Catholic education,” he added.

In his speech, Pope Francis urged all Kenyans to work for peace and forgiveness and to heal ethnic, religious and economic divisions. “Experience shows that violence, conflict and terrorism feed on fear, mistrust and the despair born of poverty and frustration,” the Pope said.

“Ultimately, the struggle against these enemies of peace must be carried on by men and women who fearlessly believe in, and bear honest witness to, the great spiritual and political values which inspired the birth of the nation.”

Kenyatta didn’t refer to the attack either, but spoke generally about the threat posed by Islamic extremists, who on Wednesday struck Tunisia after earlier attacks in recent days in Mali and Paris.

“As we fight this war, recent events around the world have indeed taught us that we must do even more to bring unity and understanding between faiths, between ethnicities, between races but also between nations,” he said.

The Pope is aiming to bring a message of peace and reconciliation to Africa, but is also stressing some issues close to his heart including the need to fight poverty, protect the environment and encourage good governance.

He urged Kenya’s political, social and economic leaders to work with “integrity and transparency” for the common good, a clear reference to Kenya’s poor record with corruption.

“I ask you in particular to 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,” Pope Francis said. — NNN-KBC