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Tampabay.com - Reporting with a camera

Photo gallery: Pope Francis visits Africa

28

November

The pope got a taste of Kenyan slum life on Friday, writes Jeffrey Gettleman for the New York Times

He stepped out of his car on a muddy street and walked slowly past hundreds of poor children who live in shanties. He heard stories of gangs preying on women, of people dying from homemade alcohol and of sinister plots by businessmen to flood children out of their schools and steal land.

When it came time to speak, Pope Francis delivered his sharpest remarks yet on his first trip to Africa.

He lashed out against what he called "new forms of colonialism, which would make African countries parts of a machine, cogs on a gigantic wheel."

Francis said that "countries are frequently pressured to adopt policies typical of the culture of waste, like those aimed at lowering the birthrate."

He even called the slums "wounds" inflicted by the elite. "How can I not denounce the injustices which you suffer?" he said.

There are few places more apt for Francis, who has cast himself as a champion of the world's poor, to deliver such remarks. The slum he visited, Kangemi, on the outskirts of Kenya's capital, Nairobi, is a seemingly endless rusted-roof settlement where thousands of families cram into iron shacks with ripped mattresses on the floor and cockroaches scuttling in the unlit corners. Many here survive on a few dollars a day.

Francis did not share any new solutions to poverty, but he did say, "We need integrated cities which belong to everyone."
And he singled out "faceless private developers" who try to steal children's playgrounds, a clear reference to an episode this year when the Kenyan police shot tear gas at children trying to protect a grassy field from being taken over by a cartel of mysterious real estate developers.

Later on Friday, Francis will fly to Uganda, where he will visit a shrine honoring some of the country's first Christians who were burned alive. So far on his African trip, he has called for more attention to be paid to the poor and for serious dialogue between different religions.

His last stop, on Sunday, will be the Central African Republic, a country torn by a brutal civil war between Christians and Muslims. Many analysts say that the Central African Republic is one of the most dangerous places a modern pope will have ever visited.

 

[Last modified: Saturday, November 28, 2015 8:54pm]

    

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