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STEVE DE GRUCHY 5TH MEMORIAL LECTURE

John de Gruchy: theologian and woodworker

Here are the details of the 5th Steve de Gruchy Memorial Lecture:.  .  The invitation is open to all.

Professor Heinrich Bedford-Strohm, the presiding bishop of the Evangelical (Lutheran) Church in Germany, and a close friend of Steve’s, will give the Steve de Gruchy Memorial Lecture, on Tuesday 1st March 2016 at 7 pm at the Rondebosch United Church, Belmont Road. He will speak on the refugee crisis in Europe and the situation in the Middle East.

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MEDITATION : RACISM AND RAINBOWS

John de Gruchy: theologian and woodworker

“In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets.”

I had a dream. Once long ago in a land far away, there lived a beautiful people.  Some of the people were purple others blue, some of them were orange others crimson, and some pink and vermillion.  There were also green people and yellow people, in fact people of every colour of the rainbow.  They were beautiful as individuals, but when they were all together on special occasions they made a spectacular sight.  Their colours blended in rich harmony as they acknowledged each other as part of a tapestry in which each was necessary, none superior, each an important part of the whole, but none insignificant on their own.  They were known far and wide as the rainbow people.  Unlike other nations, there were no white people or black…

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A new ecumenical Youth Leadership training programme in South Africa

VOLMOED YOUNG ADULT LEADERSHIP TRAINING PROGRAMME

22 May 2016 to 31 July 2016

A new opportunity to train young adults for leadership has arisen within South Africa.

For ten weeks during the winter of 2016, a group of 25 – 30 young adults between the ages of 18 – 30 years will undergo training that will equip them to play a significant role in the church and society over the next few years. This programme will be repeated every year for a new group of young leaders.

The setting for this course will be the beautiful “Hemel en Aarde” valley close to Hermanus, at the Volmoed Retreat Centre.

A formal launch of the programme will take place at Volmoed (www.volmoed.co.za) on Youth Day, June 16, which will also be the 40th Anniversary of the June 16 1976 Soweto riots, when young people took a stand against apartheid education.

The training programme will adopt the five-theme rhythm of the Volmoed Community, viz. Creation, Healing of memories, Justice and peace, Community (Church and society) and Reconciliation. The young people will plan a weekly Taize service and will take part in the Thursday Eucharist service at Volmoed, where John de Gruchy usually delivers an excellent meditation.

Different facilitators and speakers will lead the young people in these themes over the ten weeks. Practical courses in social media, social entrepreneurship, art, etc will also be offered in the afternoons.

The course will have a theoretical and practical component, and the young people will be immersed into the surrounding communities in Hermanus and will also visit Cape Agulhas and the Moravian Mission stations of Genadendal and Elim.

Young adults who wish to apply to be part of this pioneering course, may apply on this electronic form at http://christianspirit.co.za/volmoed-registration/

Those who see the importance of this initiative and wish to contribute to this programme in cash or kind, are welcome to contact the Centre office on info@christianspirit.co.za . One of the needs will be for transport, and we hope to approach corporate sponsors for a 30 seater bus.

For any more information, you are welcome to email Rev Edwin Arrison at earrison78@telkomsa.net or Prof John de Gruchy at john@degruchy.co.za

CHRISTMAS AS PROTEST: John de Gruchy

CHRISTMAS CELEBRATION AS PROTEST

Revelation 22: 16-21

Luke 2:1-8

“In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered.”

The words are so familiar that we don’t give them a second thought. But this is how the Christmas story begins: “In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered.” We don’t know when this census took place, or its reason, but it was probably confined to Judaea for the purpose of taxation and control. King Herod had to raise taxes on behalf of Emperor Augustus in order to control a turbulent country regularly threatened by the uprisings of Jewish zealots. Herod was nervous and fearful. Any talk of a messianic leader sent shivers up his spine. So he decreed that everyone should be registered in their home town. Mary and Joseph set off from Nazareth for Bethlehem, a town as crowded then as it often has been since, but they had not gone on line to book accommodation. So Jesus was born in stable in a town occupied by foreign troops that would soon massacre all the children born at that time, out of fear that what the Wisemen from the East had told Herod would come true.

Fast forward to Bethlehem today, a town that is normally bustling with Christian pilgrims from across the world at Christmas. As usual, the massive Christmas tree has been erected and lit on Bethlehem’s Manger Square, but the crowds are not there as in previous years because of the unrest in Israel-Palestine. There are fewer pilgrims from elsewhere and fewer Palestinian Christians born and bred in Bethlehem. Many have left to escape the military occupation and others cannot get to Bethlehem because of all the check points. If Jesus was meant to be born in Bethlehem today, Mary and Joseph would have been turned back by soldiers long before they got there.

Bethlehem is no longer that little town in the Christmas carol that lies still in “deep and dreamless sleep” as the silent stars go by. But the final lines of the carol remain true: “The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.” I am not sure what Philip Brooks had in mind when he penned those words, but it is undoubtedly so that the birth of Jesus brought fear to Herod and others in the hierarchy of power just as his coming brought hope to all who were looking to God for deliverance. Sadly after two-thousand years fear and hope continue to confront each other in Bethlehem as they do across the globe — the fear of those who refuse to heed the cry for justice and peace, and the hope of those who bear witness to the Prince of Peace. But sadly, even many Christians are losing hope.

Father Jamal Khader of the Latin Patriarchy, which traditionally leads Bethlehem’s Christmas celebrations, wrote on-line this week. “We cannot forget what is going on, that there are people suffering. People are losing hope in a future of peace.” Those words have seared my soul since I read them. “Losing hope in a future of peace.” Does this mean that fear for the future is winning the struggle against hope? Even though we live in relative peace, there are many of us who also fear for the future having lost hope in a future of peace. And yet, is it not true that Jesus was born at a time when fear was rampant and hope a rare commodity?  It was in the midst of an oppressive occupation that the angels sang their protest song “Peace on earth, goodwill to all.” It is, in fact, precisely because the world is in the mess it is, that the message of Christmas is so important.

To celebrate Christmas today as yesterday is an act of protest, an act of defiance against all the powers that are threatening our future, and that of our children and grandchildren. That is why Christians in Bethlehem have again raised a huge Christmas tree in testimony to the Prince of Peace, a sign of hope in a fearful world. Think of it. Every Christmas tree that we erect in our homes or churches or civic spaces is, rightly understood, an act of protest: of faith against despair, of love against hatred, of hope against hopelessness. That is what the celebration of Christmas is all about.

This too, is why, during Advent as we journey towards Christmas, our celebration of the Eucharist concludes with the shout “Maranatha!” a word with which the New Testament ends. It means “Come quickly, Lord!” At a time of intense persecution and suffering, the early Christians were expressing their hope that a new day would dawn, a day of justice and peace. They looked forward in anticipation to the time when the peace of Christ would reign, when fear would cease and their hopes be realised. Maranatha was a cry of defiance, a protest action. Such “hope against hope” remains at the core Christian faith, it is the hope that tyrants will be overcome and violence cease, a hope that keeps us from despair, a hope that empowers us to act for justice. For to lose hope and stop working for peace and justice is to surrender to evil, to allow ugliness to conquer beauty, and hatred trump love. It is to give the king Herods of this world the victory. It is to stop celebrating Christmas.

So we continue on our journey to Bethlehem in solidarity with all the Christians gathered there even if we can’t be there physically. We stand with them in Manager Square before the Christmas Tree, we enter the Church of the Nativity and visit the place where Jesus was born. And we do so because we refuse to stop believing in Jesus who came to bring a just peace to the world, a peace that the world cannot give us. In the darkest of times we shout “Maranatha” in protest against everything that stands against the coming of the Prince of Peace.

I conclude with another Advent sonnet written by Isobel:

He first came as a vulnerable babe,

Rejected then for how he claimed God’s word,

They killed him but he rose up from the grave.

He comes a second time to each one’s heart –

Who opens it, the Lord comes in to stay

To cleanse and make it new in every part.

But we await that great and glorious day –

He’ll come in power to renew the earth,

Yet in our waiting do we just okay

The status quo or do we help to birth

The new in everything we do or say?

God knows our world is full of pain, of need:

Come, Lord, bring peace and justice now indeed.

 

John de Gruchy

Volmoed 10 December 2015

Text of Pope Francis’ address at the UN office in Kenya

Full text of Pope Francis’ address to the United Nations Office at Nairobi

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I would like to thank Madame Sahle-Work Zewde, Director-General of the United Nations Office at Nairobi, for her kind invitation and words of welcome, as well as Mr Achim Steiner, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme, and Mr. Joan Clos, Executive Director of UN-Habitat.  I take this occasion to greet the personnel and all those associated with the institutions who are here present.

On my way to this hall, I was asked to plant a tree in the park of the United Nations Centre.  I was happy to carry out this simple symbolic act, which is so meaningful in many cultures.

Planting a tree is first and foremost an invitation to continue the battle against phenomena like deforestation and desertification.  It reminds us of the importance of safeguarding and responsibly administering those “richly biodiverse lungs of our planet”, which include, on this continent, “the Congo basins”, a place essential “for the entire earth and for the future of humanity”.  It also points to the need to appreciate and encourage “the commitment of international agencies and civil society organizations which draw public attention to these issues and offer critical cooperation, employing legitimate means of pressure, to ensure that each government carries out its proper and inalienable responsibility to preserve its country’s environment and natural resources, without capitulating to spurious local or international interests” (Laudato Si’, 38).

Planting a tree is also an incentive to keep trusting, hoping, and above all working in practice to reverse all those situations of injustice and deterioration which we currently experience.

In a few days an important meeting on climate change will be held in Paris, where the international community as such will once again confront these issues.  It would be sad, and I dare say even catastrophic, were particular interests to prevail over the common good and lead to manipulating information in order to protect their own plans and projects.

In this international context, we are confronted with a choice which cannot be ignored: either to improve or to destroy the environment.  Every step we take, whether large or small, individual or collective, in caring for creation opens a sure path for that “generous and worthy creativity which brings out the best in human beings” (ibid., 211).

“The climate is a common good, belonging to all and meant for all”; “climate change is a global problem with grave implications: environmental, social, economic, political and for the distribution of goods; it represents one of the principal challenges facing humanity in our day” (ibid., 23 and 25).  Our response to this challenge “needs to incorporate a social perspective which takes into account the fundamental rights of the poor and the underprivileged” (ibid., 93).  For “the misuse and destruction of the environment are also accompanied by a relentless process of exclusion” (Address to the United Nations, 25 September 2015).

COP21 represents an important stage in the process of developing a new energy system which depends on a minimal use of fossil fuels, aims at energy efficiency and makes use of energy sources with little or no carbon content.  We are faced with a great political and economic obligation to rethink and correct the dysfunctions and distortions of the current model of development.

The Paris Agreement can give a clear signal in this direction, provided that, as I stated before the UN General Assembly, we avoid “every temptation to fall into a declarationist nominalism which would assuage our consciences.  We need to ensure that our institutions are truly effective” (ibid.).  For this reason, I express my hope that COP21 will achieve a global and “transformational” agreement based on the principles of solidarity, justice, equality and participation; an agreement which targets three complex and interdependent goals: lessening the impact of climate change, fighting poverty and ensuring respect for human dignity.

For all the difficulties involved, there is a growing “conviction that our planet is a homeland and that humanity is one people living in a common home” (Laudato Si’, 164).  No country “can act independently of a common responsibility.  If we truly desire positive change, we have to humbly accept our interdependence” (Address to Popular Movements, 9 July 2015).  The problem arises whenever we think of interdependence as a synonym for domination, or the subjection of some to the interests of others, of the powerless to the powerful.

What is needed is sincere and open dialogue, with responsible cooperation on the part of all: political authorities, the scientific community, the business world and civil society.  Positive examples are not lacking; they demonstrate that a genuine cooperation between politics, science and business can achieve significant results.

At the same time we believe that “human beings, while capable of the worst, are also capable of rising above themselves, choosing again what is good and making a new start” (Laudato Si’, 205).  This conviction leads us to hope that, whereas the post-industrial period may well be remembered as one of the most irresponsible in history, “humanity at the dawn of the twenty-first century will be remembered for having generously shouldered its grave responsibilities” (ibid., 165).  If this is to happen, the economy and politics need to be placed at the service of peoples, with the result that “human beings, in harmony with nature, structure the entire system of production and distribution in such a way that the abilities and needs of each individual find suitable expression in social life”.  Far from an idealistic utopia, this is a realistic prospect which makes the human person and human dignity the point of departure and the goal of everything (cf. Address to Popular Movements, 9 July 2015).

This much-needed change of course cannot take place without a substantial commitment to education and training.  Nothing will happen unless political and technical solutions are accompanied by a process of education which proposes new ways of living.  A new culture.  This calls for an educational process which fosters in boys and girls, women and men, young people and adults, the adoption of a culture of care – care for oneself, care for others, care for the environment – in place of a culture of waste, a “throw-away culture” where people use and discard themselves, others and the environment.  By promoting an “awareness of our common origin, of our mutual belonging, and of the future to be shared with everyone”, we will favour the development of new convictions, attitudes and lifestyles.  “A great cultural, spiritual and educational challenge stands before us, and it will demand that we set out on the long path of renewal” (Laudato Si’, 202).  We still have time.

Many are the faces, the stories and the evident effects on the lives of thousands of persons whom the culture of deterioration and waste has allowed to be sacrificed before the idols of profits and consumption.  We need to be alert to one sad sign of the “globalization of indifference”: the fact that we are gradually growing accustomed to the suffering of others, as if it were something normal (cf. Message for World Food Day, 16 October 2013, 2), or even worse, becoming resigned to such extreme and scandalous kinds of “using and discarding” and social exclusion as new forms of slavery, human trafficking, forced labour, prostitution and trafficking in organs.  “There has been a tragic rise in the number of migrants seeking to flee from the growing poverty aggravated by environmental degradation.  They are not recognized by international conventions as refugees; they bear the loss of the lives they have left behind without enjoying any legal protection whatsoever” (Laudato Si’, 25).  Many lives, many stories, many dreams have been shipwrecked in our day.  We cannot remain indifferent in the face of this.  We have no right.

Together with neglect of the environment, we have witnessed for some time now a rapid process of urbanization, which in many cases has unfortunately led to a “disproportionate and unruly growth of many cities which have become unhealthy to live in [and] inefficient” (ibid., 44).  There we increasingly see the troubling symptoms of a social breakdown which spawns “increased violence and a rise in new forms of social aggression, drug trafficking, growing drug use by young people, loss of identity” (ibid., 46), a lack of rootedness and social anonymity (cf. ibid., 149).

Here I would offer a word of encouragement to all those working on the local and international levels to ensure that the process of urbanization becomes an effective means for development and integration.  This means working to guarantee for everyone, especially those living in outlying neighbourhoods, the basic rights to dignified living conditions and to land, lodging and labour.  There is a need to promote projects of city planning and maintenance of public areas which move in this direction and take into consideration the views of local residents; this will help to eliminate the many instances of inequality and pockets of urban poverty which are not simply economic but also, and above all, social and environmental.  The forthcoming Habitat-III Conference, planned for Quito in October 2016, could be a significant occasion for identifying ways of responding to these issues.

In a few days, Nairobi will host the 10th Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization.  In 1967, my predecessor Pope Paul VI, contemplating an increasingly interdependent world and foreseeing the current reality of globalization, reflected on how commercial relationships between States could prove a fundamental element for the development of peoples or, on the other hand, a cause of extreme poverty and exclusion (Populorum Progressio, 56-62).  While recognizing that much has been done in this area, it seems that we have yet to attain an international system of commerce which is equitable and completely at the service of the battle against poverty and exclusion.  Commercial relationships between States, as an indispensable part of relations between peoples, can do as much to harm the environment as to renew it and preserve it for future generations.

It is my hope that the deliberations of the forthcoming Nairobi Conference will not be a simple balancing of conflicting interests, but a genuine service to care of our common home and the integral development of persons, especially those in greatest need.  I would especially like to echo the concern of all those groups engaged in projects of development and health care – including those religious congregations which serve the poor and those most excluded – with regard to agreements on intellectual property and access to medicines and essential health care.  Regional free trade treaties dealing with the protection of intellectual property, particularly in the areas of pharmaceutics and biotechnology, should not only maintain intact the powers already granted to States by multilateral agreements, but should also be a means for ensuring a minimum of health care and access to basic treatment for all.  Multilateral discussions, for their part, should allow poorer countries the time, the flexibility and the exceptions needed for them to comply with trade regulations in an orderly and relatively smooth manner.  Interdependence and the integration of economies should not bear the least detriment to existing systems of health care and social security; instead, they should promote their creation and good functioning.  Certain health issues, like the elimination of malaria and tuberculosis, treatment of so-called orphan diseases, and neglected sectors of tropical medicine, require urgent political attention, above and beyond all other commercial or political interests.

Africa offers the world a beauty and natural richness which inspire praise of the Creator.  This patrimony of Africa and of all mankind is constantly exposed to the risk of destruction caused by human selfishness of every type and by the abuse of situations of poverty and exclusion.  In the context of economic relationships between States and between peoples, we cannot be silent about forms of illegal trafficking which arise in situations of poverty and in turn lead to greater poverty and exclusion.  Illegal trade in diamonds and precious stones, rare metals or those of great strategic value, wood, biological material and animal products, such as ivory trafficking and the relative killing of elephants, fuels political instability, organized crime and terrorism.  This situation too is a cry rising up from humanity and the earth itself, one which needs to be heard by the international community.

In my recent visit to the United Nations Headquarters in New York, I expressed the desire and hope that the work of the United Nations and of all its multilateral activities may be “the pledge of a secure and happy future for future generations.  And so it will, if the representatives of the States can set aside partisan and ideological interests, and sincerely strive to serve the common good” (Address to the UN, 25 September 2015).

Once again I express the support of the Catholic community, and my own, to continue to pray and work that the fruits of regional cooperation, expressed today in the African Union and the many African agreements on commerce, cooperation and development, may be vigorously pursued and always take into account the common good of the sons and daughters of this land.

May the blessing of the Most High be with each of you and your peoples.  Thank you.

Meditation on the question of vengeance: John de Gruchy

VENGEANCE IS MINE

Romans 12:9-21

Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” No, if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.  Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Dear Presidents, Prime Ministers and Chancellors of the West, and everyone else in their premier league of world politics.  I, John of Volmoed, was lying in my bed early one morning and thinking about the terrible and tragic events that have recently occurred in Paris and elsewhere, and I decided to write this letter to you. Greetings!

I know you probably won’t receive this letter but if somehow it lands on your desk, please know that the saints at Volmoed daily pray for you as you exercise your awesome responsibility in times like these when everything seems to be falling apart.  We would not want to be in your shoes, and nobody would want us to be.  We also know that politics is about the art of the possible not the impossible dream, and that you have to weigh up many conflicting interests in making your decisions — those of the people who vote you into power, big business, the military and armaments industry, international relations and national pride, and your own values, hopes and ambitions.

We understand that when the enemy strikes and innocent people are slaughtered, then the response the people want, and the gut response of most political leaders and every nation under the sun since Cain took vengeance on Abel, is, to retaliate.  The more threatening your response, the less you will lose face amongst your peers and people.  Therefore  war must be declared and bombers launched to destroy the strongholds of the enemy.  This has invariably happened in history and most people support such action.  In this climate of fear and revenge, daily fed by the media, it is unlikely you will want to read the Bible or listen to the pope before you respond, though you might get religious support from those who are ready to give you their divine blessing.  But if by chance you do listen to the prophets and open the Bible you will find this passage written by Paul to Christians living in Rome, the heart of the Empire, the ancient equivalent of Washington DC.

Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” No, if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.  Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Of course, these words were not addressed to political leaders responsible for taking care of the weighty affairs of government but to a small congregation of Christians  who were suffering persecution.  They could not really have taken vengeance on the Empire persecuting them; they were powerless.  By contrast you have the power to play God, and your oath of office does not include making a commitment to ,love your enemies. Who can possibly love ISIS, except those thousands of angry, alienated and vengeful Muslim young people and former Sunni soldiers of Saddam Hussein?

Even though not all of you would claim to be Christian, for political reasons at least it is convenient at such a time to evoke the historical myth of Western Christian Civilization.  Our leaders did that during the dark days of apartheid.  We were engaged, they told us, in a life and death struggle against godless Communism.  But in the end we discovered that we were not defending Christian civilization, we were defending our own interests and that the way we were doing so was anything but Christian.  In fact, Western civilization is not necessarily or normally Christian at all if by Christian we mean following the teaching of Jesus.  After all, the so-called Christian nations of Europe which are now united in a fragile alliance fighting terrorism  have often been at war with each other, killing and maiming millions for the sake of honour and revenge, or control of resources.  There was nothing Christian about the bombing of Coventry or the vengeance that then led to the destruction of the city of Dresden.  We at Volmoed are particularly aware of this because we are part of the Community of the Cross of Nails which grew out of these terrible bombings and the decision of the Dean of Coventry Cathedral to forgive and work for reconciliation.  Vengeance was not Christian; forgiveness and reconciliation was.  You see, to defend Christian civilization means defending Christian values, and acting accordingly. The issue is not about protecting your citizens, that is your duty, but the danger of fostering a culture of fear, hate and revenge in which humanity and dignity is eroded in a spiral of violent reprisal.  The only victors are those who manufacture weapons, which are increasingly used against all of us.

You cannot always govern according to “Christian principles, turning the other cheek when terrorists blow up taverns.  Hitler had to be stopped in his tracks as does ISIS.  But if vengeance is the driving motive in doing so, it will devour you as much as it devours your enemies, for vengeance begets retaliation.  The bombing of Baghdad begets terrorism in Boston, London and Paris.  So consider the consequences.  The more jihadists you bomb the more are born.  Today’s terrorists are the grandchildren of those who suffered from brutal wars in Algeria, Palestine, Iraq, and other countries that were once European colonies, even though these disillusioned and dangerous young men and women have grown up in Europe and now have European passports.   Why is it that after living in and being educated in Europe they have turned against Europe and the West?  What has gone wrong?  Has Western civilization failed in convincing them about the values which we all cherish?  Has the Christian West lost its soul in trying to gain the whole world?

The only long term solution to the crisis we face and defeat the ideology that is threatening to destroy civilization, is one driven by moral values that transcend selfish national interests.  The alternative, the path of vengeance, is war without end.  Is that the kind of world we and future generations really want to live in?  Maybe those who manufacture armaments don’t want wars to end, maybe terrorists don’t, and maybe those religious extremists who are wanting Armageddon to erupt don’t, but sane people do, and those who seriously follow Jesus do.

So our prayer for you is that you may be able to see beyond the immediate challenge and count the longer term cost and consequences of your actions.  Our prayer for you as you search for solutions is that you do not compromise your own moral integrity.  Our prayer is that you and we together may cherish those values which are fundamental to human flourishing even in these critical times of terror: justice, compassion, tolerance, hospitality, and a respect for human dignity among them.  If we lose these even in fighting a just cause, we will lose our souls just as empires and nations have lost their theirs the more they have expanded and conquered. That is why the words of St. Paul, even though written to a small band of powerless Christians in the belly of the Empire still speak to all of us today.

Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” No, if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.  Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

 

John de Gruchy

Volmoed 26 November 2015

 

Pope Francis’ opening speech in Nairobi

Pope Francis’ full speech at State House Nairobi, Kenya

Nov 25, 2015

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Mr President,

Honourable Government and Civil Leaders,

Distinguished Members of the Diplomatic Corps,

My Brother Bishops,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am most grateful for your warm welcome on this, my first visit to Africa. I thank you, Mr President, for your kind words in the name of the Kenyan people, and I look forward to my stay among you. Kenya is a young and vibrant nation, a richly diverse society which plays a significant role in the region. In many ways your experience of shaping a democracy is one shared by many other African nations. Like Kenya, they too are working to build, on the solid foundations of mutual respect, dialogue and cooperation, a multiethnic society which is truly harmonious, just and inclusive.

Yours too is a nation of young people. In these days, I look forward to meeting many of them, speaking with them, and encouraging their hopes and aspirations for the future. The young are any nation’s most valuable resource. 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.

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 Kenyan people have a strong appreciation of these God-given treasures and are known for a culture of conservation which does you honour. The grave environmental crisis facing our world demands an ever greater sensitivity to the relationship between human beings and nature. 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. These values are deeply rooted in the African soul. In a world which continues to exploit rather than protect our common home, they must inspire the efforts of national leaders to promote responsible models of economic development.

In effect, there is a clear link between the protection of nature and the building of a just and equitable social order. There can be no renewal of our relationship with nature, without a renewal of humanity itself (cf. Laudato Si’, 118). 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. In the work of building a sound democratic order, strengthening cohesion and integration, tolerance and respect for others, the pursuit of the common good must be a primary goal. Experience shows that violence, conflict and terrorism feed on fear, mistrust, and the despair born of poverty and frustration. Ultimately, the struggle against these enemies of peace and prosperity 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.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the advancement and preservation of these great values is entrusted in a special way to you, the leaders of your country’s political, cultural and economic life. This is a great responsibility, a true calling, in the service of the entire Kenyan people. The Gospel tells us that from those to whom much has been given, much will be demanded (Lk 12:48). In that spirit, I encourage you to work with integrity and transparency for the common good, and to foster a spirit of solidarity at every level of society. 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. I assure you of the continued efforts of the Catholic community, through its educational and charitable works, to offer its specific contribution in these areas.

Dear friends, I am told that here in Kenya it is a tradition for young schoolchildren to plant trees for posterity. May this eloquent sign of hope in the future, and trust in the growth which God gives, sustain all of you in your efforts to cultivate a society of solidarity, justice and peace on the soil of this country and throughout the great African continent. I thank you once more for your warm welcome, and upon you and your families, and all the beloved Kenyan people, I invoke the Lord’s abundant blessings.

Mungu abariki Kenya!

God bless Kenya!

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