News from Kenya

What is good life!

When things are done as you expect to be, it is not easy to attain any insight. It is amazing when a friar meets people whose conditions are contradictory because they seem needy and also they seem to be comfortable with their statutes. To such an extend that the friar’s initiatives and kind works are irrelevant, because he just bothers them.

That is why if you were to be asked what good life meant to you as Franciscan, most likely than not you say ‘is to observe the Holy Gospel in the manner of St. Francis’.

While good life for Socrates of the Ancient Greece is to acknowledge one’s ignorance. Aristotle would say good life is to strife to attain the mean in everything. While for Hitler, good life was, to be obeyed and revered by everybody.  Then for our Lord Jesus Christ is to listen to the Father and do His will.

What of a person living in Mathare slums, what is good life? I suppose the answer could be ‘good life is generally to live your life with or without, it doesn’t matter’.

For the last eight months, I have been doing my pastoral work in Mathare kwa Chief among the famously called IDP’s (Internally Displaced Persons). It was amazing to discover that it is business as usual, that is, life was kicking as usual simply because they were living without problems, which of course we were burdening them to have while in the real sense according to them they did not have.

That is why to resettle just one IDP from the camp could cost you Millions of Kenya Shillings, to else where even to their most favorite place, Mathare section ‘3c’ famously called Bonde.

It defeats logic to listen to what happened to an IDP, then as you sympathize with Him or her, he tells you face blank “I would firmly prefer to go back to my house because the land lord is willing to repair it”.

I might be narrating something, which seems imaginable, but among many examples of what an IDP can consciously, firmly, practically prefer to reside in Bonde are two girls. Due to having poor shelter in the camp there was a lot of immorality like rape, stealing, overcrowdings, irregular ground, coldness, backaches etc. So two girls who had fallen victims of rape narrated their nightmare story to one of the sisters of St. Teresa Catholic Church.

Fortunately or unfortunately the sister got a donor who accepted to care for the two “innocent girls”. The good Samaritan, searched for a good house rented it for three months. She went ahead and furnished the house and came for the girls.  She had arranged that since the house was near they could mean while be attended for treatment in Nairobi Hospital.

Probably as the good Samaritan expected to be appreciated by the duo, it turned out to be real torture because it was outside the camp and worse more they could not reach Bonde.

Four days were like a century to live in that house simply because it is far from Bonde, so they abandoned the house and went back to the camp. So as to affirm the saying in the  book of proverbs … “train a child when is small and even when she or he is old will not forget” for this two girls grew in mathare slums and any kind of change out of Mathare is an anathame sit. What appears good to me is bitter to the other.

The initiatives of these blessed mama were very bitter and ungrounded to these young girls, what a pity, but who cares? For sure now who was in the problem the two girls or the good Samaritan?

As if this was not enough, a certain young man whom had lost his left hand during the after election fracas;  was attending clinic daily for the theraphysical exercises and had no money to continue attending the clinic. Moved by pity and good will, one of our Friars decided to support the boy financially for the theraphysical exercises in the Hospital. To our surprise, the money was left to the parish and nobody came for the money. For more than a month, the money was banked in the shelves of the parish.

Seriously what does good life mean for us human beings, could we be right to say that life is individualistic or communal or global; what determines ones life perspective or paradigm.

Or else who is really in need, or in problem. Who is in need real? Which criteria’s is one ought to follow to help someone, whom you think can benefit from your help?  Even if, you cannot scrutinize his or her heart to know which needs does he or she give first priority?

At the moment it is so painful and fascinating to discover that only two percent of the camp dwellers go to church and majority are Christians. After inquiring why; the answer was because they are ignorant, or they don’t understand why they should be bothered to go to church.

“Life in its fullness is to live in the slums day in day out”.

Merely their principle is very simple ‘leave me alone, led your life and me too’ since I want to be free and stress free even if you might see as if I am in problems, problems are with you not me.

Even if the circumstances are this way demanding we cannot give up, we still need to do something. So it is a project by itself which needs a lot of commitment just as St. Francis during the time of the crusades went armless to the Sultan, we are also challenged to change the hearts of these beloved people who seem to have hearts of Stone and give them fleshy hearts.