My Work - Some Casual Reflections

By Arnold Grol W.F.

 
The following article was written some years ago and describes the motives and incentive which were behind the work of the late Fr. Naud Grol. It is in his own words and reflects the concerns he had, all through his life, for the marginalised people of society. The issues raised here are still relevant in Kenya today, as well as in every major city around the world.
 
As I am not an intellectual, I just write down some casual reflections about my work in no particular order. Everything on earth is relative so are my reflections. I am open to change any of my opinions and ideas.
 
When one thinks of missionaries, most people think at once about the work done by missionaries in the bush. Formerly you could hardly think about a missionary without a bushy beard. I worked twelve years in the bush of the Catholic Diocese of Sumbawanga, Tanzania. During four months each year, I was on the road, for two weeks on end, travelling with donkeys and sleeping in the houses of the Africans. Often I was awakened during the night, by the noise of the chickens in the room, which they had forgotten to take out. Often also I could hardly sleep at night because of the noise of beating drums, dancing and drinking by many people together in the hut next to the one where I slept.
 
During twelve years, for some hours each day I studied a difficult African language that was called Kifipa and was not well known by most missionaries. Most missionaries in our diocese only knew Kiswahili, the African Esperanto, and Lingua Franca, an artificially created language. This is a language spoken in many countries of Central Africa and which is the official language in Tanzania and Kenya.
 
I think that every missionary before working in a big African town, should first work some years in the bush. In the bush one can get the feeling of the African mentality better and know more about African traditions and customs.
 
All this experience of twelve years in the bush helped me a lot to understand the 'African mentality'. However, one must be prudent when speaking about 'African customs' and 'African mentality', because there are hundreds of African tribes with different languages, customs and mentality. A 'scugnizzo' of Naples, a boy who sleeps in the streets at night and who spends his time in petty crime is a 'European' and the English medical doctor, who practises after having been through London University is also a 'European'. Both have a different mentality and way of life.
 
After twelve years in the bush, I became the Treasurer General of Sumbawanga Diocese and advisor to the African Bishop. This job helped me a lot to learn how to spend effectively the money, given generally by people in Europe, who, in most cases, were not rich - at least according to European standards. After having been Treasurer for seven years, I taught an African priest to do the work of a Treasurer. We had fifty African priests in our diocese and I felt that it was time, being a European, for me to hand over my job to an African priest.
 
Then I started working six months in Dar-es-Salaam, the capital of Tanzania. There I started realising that a missionary cannot work in a big town in the same way as he used to work in the bush The problems are different. In the bush, Africans live completely a community life surrounded by their own tribe and own family. In the bush, they live the life of an 'extended family' and not just the type of European family, which are mainly the father, the mother, and the children. The 'extended family' means that the older and younger brothers of your father are also your fathers, so you have many fathers. Your cousins are also your brothers and sisters. This means that in the bush there are no real orphans.
 
The grandparents teach their grandchildren during the time of initiation into life, when they are about thirteen years old. It is often during this time that young boys and even girls are circumcised. During this time of initiation, the grandparents teach them how to live according to the rules of their own tribe. The boys are taught the tasks of a man: how he should treat his wife when married, how to respect her during the day and during the night; how much they have to pay to the parents of the girl before marrying her and during their traditional marriage. The girls are introduced to adult life by their grandmothers.
 
In town all this is gradually disappearing. Young people still rely partly on their 'extended' family, but often there is no member of their extended family in town. The men often leave their wives at home to look after the agricultural field and to look after the cows and husbands live hundreds of kilometres away from their wives. This is why many men take a second wife in town and it is the reason why there are so many prostitutes. That is how in town good African traditional values are disappearing. A boy of thirteen years just goes to a European type of hospital to be circumcised and is not taught how to behave well in life at the same time. If he is a Catholic, the boy might be taught the Catholic religion through a catechism. But in most Catholic catechisms not much is said about the urban situation, honesty in daily life, corruption, how to treat your husband or wife well according to your tribal customs, how African values can be adapted to the way of life of the Gospel.
 
After having experienced six months of urban apostolate in the big town of Dar-es-Salaam, I realised that I had to think out new urban approaches. The Good News of the Gospel has to be made relevant to the daily life of people living in an urban setting, which is so different from the bush.
 
Happily after six months in the town of Dar-es-Salaam my Superiors sent me for one year to the Gaba Pastoral Institute in Uganda, an Institute to update priests, sisters and Catholic lay people. As I had not studied in a systematic way for twenty years, I did not understand what the Aggiornamento of Vatican Council II and the new theology was about. At Gaba for the first time in my life, I studied such subjects as anthropology and mass media. These studies for one full year at the Pastoral Institute helped me a lot for my priestly apostolate in the slums of Nairobi, because after my course, I was appointed to the Archdiocese of Nairobi in Kenya.
 
Once in Nairobi I did not start anything new for the first six months. I just said Mass, heard confessions, and taught catechism in school. For the rest I tried to get the feeling of the Nairobi slums, to sense the atmosphere of utter misery I had never met before in my life. During this time, I also tried to learn the Kikuyu language for three months and then, the next three months, the Luo language. People were eager to teach me in the tea-kiosks you find along all the streets of the slums and, at once, I got many friends through teaching me their language. They are the two most important languages in Kenya, though there are 33 different languages. The lingua franca of Kenya is Kiswahili. This language I knew already, because I had learnt it in Tanzania. This is the language I practically speak the whole day in Nairobi. I have gradually learnt the kind of Kiswahili spoken by delinquent youth.
 
The first six months I had no idea what kind of new approach I should take to the urban apostolate. My big principle was "Let it happen." "Do not plan new ways sitting at your table in your room. Act and reflect. Start something practical and then improve on it". So after six months, I had noticed, that many boys and girls were thieves and prostitutes, because they had no work.
 
In Kenya, there is no social security system. If you have no work, you are hungry and you cannot buy clothes. You try to steal in order to smoke marihuana and drink illegal liquor, in order to forget your misery. In Tanzania I had noticed already that youth clubs based on systems imported from Europe did not work very well. Once the priest who was interested in youth work left the parish, generally the youth activities would soon die. So I wanted to start a youth club that came from the desires and needs of the boys and girls themselves, without imposing on them youth activities they did not like.
 
After having started three youth clubs in three different slums of Nairobi, friends came to me to ask me if I could help them to do something for the parking-boys. Parking boys are boys that sleep at night in the streets and during the day time show people where they can park their car, because there are too many cars for the few parking places in the centre of the town. These parking-boys are between eight and 15 years old. After that, they inevitably become hard core criminals. Practically all of them have venereal diseases once they are ten years old. Happily, I had the boys of my three youth clubs to help me when I visited the parking-boys at night, while they were sleeping in the streets. After one month, I had won the confidence of many of them, though in the beginning they did not trust me. Little by little, by showing them respect and affection, they started having confidence in me. To my great astonishment, many parking-boys wanted to go to school. I could hardly believe it because in the newspapers I had always read that these street boys were good for nothing, that they did not want any education and that they were young criminals with whom one could do nothing.
 
By this time, I had several paid and unpaid co-workers. The new ideas no longer came from me alone, but from all of us, co-workers, as a team. We started a school for them with a school syllabus adapted to boys that sleep in the streets, who are used to sniff petrol and those who steal. Nobody, neither the Catholic nor the Protestant church wanted to allow us to use the hall which most churches in town have next to their own church. They said "These boys are dirty, they are thieves and they will make the hall dirty". Most of these halls were never used during the day, but the Church Officials were afraid that our boys would dirty their hall and that the parishioners could no longer be able to play tennis and squash in the evening.
 
Then Father Sjef Donders, a White Father like me, a professor and Catholic Chaplain of the Nairobi University, told us that we could teach the boys and girls in the University church. Later, we also taught them in the hall next to the church. For some time, the boys and some girls went on sleeping in the streets. The Protestants who had a church opposite the University Church provided them with a meal at midday.
 
Up to now, we have four 'Undugu' schools with about 450 pupils, all of them needy boys and girls. One school we started because we noticed that at night in town, some girls of about ten years old had already started to be prostitutes. We found out the area where they came from, an area where people live in huts about one metre high made out of plastic. In that area we started a school for boys and girls as a preventive measure to prostitution. Ninety percent of the children in our four schools have no father.
 
One day an African Official of the Kenya Government from the Ministry of Education, asked me if I could show him our 'Undugu' schools and our new system and approaches to education. Our schools do not follow the Official Government syllabus of Education. In our schools there is an 'Education for life' with no uniforms and no examinations. Only after reaching twelve years of age, children are allowed to get into our schools, because before that they have to try to get into Government Primary Schools.
 
The Government Official, after I showed him our schools, immediately liked our school syllabus. From then on, our new school system, called 'Undugu Basic Education Programme', was officially recognised by the Government and already five out of thirty teachers are paid by the Government. Our new school syllabus is now regularly prepared and approved during meetings attended by 'Undugu' teachers and Officials belonging to the Ministry of Education. Several other organisations have started to copy our new system of Education. Our new approach to education also has an influence on the preparation by the Ministry of Education for normal Government Primary School syllabuses.
 

The main aim of 'Undugu' is to be a pilot project we want to act as multiplicators. We do not want to extend too much to other areas, because the principle is "Small is beautiful". We like people from other organisations to come and see what we do and copy our activities. Of course purely copying a system is not good; people have to adapt it to their surroundings. Small towns in Kenya have different problems to the problems in Nairobi, a different way of living. We also go to other organisations to see what they do and learn from them.

Nairobi has about one million inhabitants. In the year 2000, there will be two million inhabitants; just the opposite of towns in Europe. Nairobi is a real cosmopolitan city with its own difficulties. Even European tourists bring, along with their money, fresh problems to Nairobi.
 
People often ask me "Why are you so interested in these criminal people? Why do you like so much to help the poorest of the poor? Why do you busy yourself most of the time with marginal people: drunkards, thieves, young people who use drugs, prostitutes, unwanted people etc?" They say, "Why cannot you be content looking after people that are good Christians, people that are decent?"
 
My answer is that I am interested in all people, the poorest of the poor, the poor, the middle-class people and the rich people. Not all rich people got rich through unlawful means. If rich people have become rich through corruption, then they are sinners and Jesus told us to love all sinners. Nevertheless, certainly I am especially interested in needy, marginal people, because they have nobody else to look after them. For the needy and marginal people, I am generally the only one who is interested to help them. A good friend of mine teaches in a school for the upper class. I go there sometimes to say Mass and preach about Christian love, which means that the rich have to share their goods and knowledge with the poor. Such teachers have an important task to teach their pupils to build the nation in a healthy way and to form the conscience of the future leaders of Kenya.
 
I feel that God gave me the charism and vocation especially to help the needy, the criminal and marginalised people. Many people whom we regard as criminals are criminals because of the misery they live in and are not criminals in the eyes of God. For us, members of the 'Undugu Society of Kenya', everybody is a child of God and 'Undugu' in the Kiswahili language means "brotherhood", "solidarity" as the first Christians practised it. That is why we do not fight the rich, but try to get them involved in helping the poor, not only with money but asking them to live 'the Gospel in action'.
 
'Undugu' has eighty-one paid co-workers: 72 Africans, 1 Asian and 7 Europeans. We also have 40 unpaid, voluntary co-workers Africans, Asians and Europeans. Most of them are rather rich or very rich European ladies, who do not work, except as housewives and mothers of course. Before they got involved in helping 'Undugu', as they have African cooks, most of their daytime was spent drinking coffee or sherry and talking about their husbands. Now many of them go right into the slums, a thing they formerly never would have dared to do. They teach the unmarried mothers, the prostitutes, the poor mothers, to read and write, to make clothes, so that they can sell them in order to feed their children and pay the school uniforms. Without expensive uniforms (leather shoes, ties and socks) the children cannot go to school. Therefore, if an unmarried mother has eight children of whom four have to go to school, the children cannot go to school, because the mother cannot afford to buy expensive uniforms and shoes. We also teach the women childcare, family planning and how to avoid malnutrition. Sixty-four percent of the children in the slums are undernourished.
 
The first thing to do when you meet a boy that sleeps in the streets or a criminal, especially when you meet him shortly after he comes out of prison, or a prostitute, is to show him or her respect. Everybody is made in the image of God, as the Bible tells us: Genesis 1:26: "Then God said: Let us make man in our own image, after our likeness". Genesis 1:27: "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him male and female he created them". Let men always remember that even women are created in the image of God; hence, we must respect everyone, because every human being, whoever he is, is created in the image of God. The Gospel also says that nobody is allowed to judge anyone else, only God can judge. It is only after showing a street boy, a criminal or a prostitute respect, taking him as he is and showing him affection, care, service and love, that you can start having a real human and brotherly relationship with him. Without respect and affection, you cannot have a lasting influence on these people. If you show paternalistic feelings, you cannot have a relationship with them. Let us not forget that at the Day of Judgement Jesus will say, "When I was hungry, you gave me food" or, "When I was hungry, you never gave me food." We are also told in the Gospel, "What you did to one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it to me" (Mt 25: 35,40,42).
 
When talking at night to the boys sleeping in the streets, I often met and talked to female prostitutes. The street boys often accompany them to give them protection. In 1979, we started a club for prostitutes, prostitutes who work in the centre of the town and sleep most often with Europeans. In the whole of Nairobi, there may be more than 10,000 prostitutes. We started a club for town prostitutes, because we were astonished that nobody cared for them. For the prostitutes in the slums we have five women's groups. The club for prostitutes in the centre of the town started in this way once I approached a girl who knows the "milieu" of town prostitutes and asked her: "Do you think the town prostitutes would like to have a club?" She answered, "I do not know". So I said: "Please talk to them and if any of them would be interested to start a club of their own, please let me meet them next Tuesday in the Heritage Restaurant". To my astonishment, twenty-three prostitutes came. I asked them many questions while drinking tea with them, for instance "Are you lonely?" They said, "We are not lonely in the sense of not being good friends amongst ourselves. When our children or we ourselves are ill, we help one another. But we are lonely in the sense that this profession is the only one we know and we would like to be able to learn how to earn money in another way". They were astonished that a man, even a priest is a man, could be interested in them for something else than selling their bodies away.
 
Our club for prostitutes is called 'Udada', which means sisterhood, not in the Italian sense of suora, but sisterhood in the sense of treating one another as sisters who have the same father and mother, being of one family, the family of God, sisters of Jesus, like Mary and Martha. The person in charge of the Club for prostitutes is a White Sister, Marie Godin.
 
Once one of our "town girls", that is the name we give them instead of prostitutes, was drunk while attending a club meeting. The other prostitutes were angry with her. They said, "She is spoiling our reputation. Most people think that because we are what we are that all of us are also thieves, drunkards and everything bad".
 
In the 'Udada Club' the girls are taught to read and write and sew. An Italian Doctor comes to cure them of their venereal diseases, because 90% of them suffer from that. Of course the 'Undugu' Doctor does not cure the European tourists who have slept with them. They had better see a doctor as soon as they have returned to Europe. The most important thing in our Club for prostitutes is that the girls have at least one place where they can socialise, one place where they are respected as normal human beings, capable of real friendship. They are badly treated by the men they sleep with and despised by the people who live in the same neighbourhood.
 
In all the different areas where we work, in our different activities, the main thing is always to keep a sense of humour and never to be impatient or angry or, at least, to try to be full of optimism. A good Christian is always optimistic because he knows that, after all, the end result will not come because of his own efforts, however good and zealous he may be. If you work amid such misery day after day, without being full of optimism and full of humour, you cannot help the poorest of the poor and you get depressed. You have to be well balanced to do our kind of work: four Europeans who worked with 'Undugu' in the slums had to leave because they became depressed. We have to bring hope to the misery of the slums. At least, many boys, girls, young men, women, and already twelve prostitutes of our 'Udada Club' have got work through our help and this gives hope to others.
 
In 'Undugu' we work with the people and not for the people. A good society consists of responsible people and not of beggars. People only feel themselves responsible when, by discussing with them together, we look for solutions to the difficulties they bring forward themselves.
 
Some Catholics, who belong to Catholic Action Groups, do not really understand the original idea of Catholic Action Groups. They think that you cannot be a good Christian and a politician at the same time. They think that you are either active in the Catholic Church or otherwise active in politics. I try to explain to them that if all members of Parliament were good Christians, that if all of them put the Gospel into action, then there would be less corruption and more healthy development; then the 'Kingdom of God' would be near already on earth.
 
Some Christians think that a priest should not do social work but only talk about Heaven and teach the solid catechism. However, man, even Jesus himself, is made of soul and body. Before preaching the Good News Jesus sometimes gave food to the people and cured their illnesses; so, we have to help the whole man. When we teach a boy to be a good carpenter, then, at the same time, we have to try to form a good man. Jesus became a man, a real man, to show us how a good man should live.
 
Some Priests and Sisters ask me: "How is your 'Social Work' going on?" I answer "My 'Pastoral Work' is going on well, not withstanding many failures". Many people, Catholics and non-Catholics, especially people who do not do anything for needy people, tell me: "Your work is a drop in the ocean!" A European medical Doctor also told me that, so I asked him: "What about your medical work?" and added that an ocean is made of many drops. Even if we would have helped only one person or would have tried to help him and not succeeded, our work is worth while.
 
What is nice these days is that missionaries belonging to different societies work a lot together. In one Nairobi slum for instance, in Kariobangi Parish under the care of the Comboni Missionaries, the Comboni Priests and White Fathers work solidly together to better the situation of people who live in huts covered with plastic paper and standing only one metre high.
 
We are made in the image of God. We are co-creators with God. That is why the philosophy of the 'Undugu Society of Kenya' is: help people to help themselves, help street boys to help themselves, help old people to help themselves. If we only give a little food or a little money, then we create dependency and to have to always depend on other people is humiliating. It is very important to give back to the needy people their dignity.
 
Many people tell me: "If you have an accident or if you die, all your work will die also. "We have 81 paid co-workers in 'Undugu', thinking co-workers, who all contribute their own ideas and initiatives to the activities of 'Undugu'. We also have an Official Director, an Italian layman, who studied Political and Social Science at Milan University, Mr. Fabio Dallapé. I am an amateur in Social Work, but he is an expert. He is an intellectual and I am not. Although I am the founder of 'Undugu', I am no longer the Director. I do not deal with daily affairs. We have a Board of Directors of 'Undugu' and by the free choice of the others, I am its Chairman up to now. The Board is made up of very capable men and women. There is an African lawyer; a successful African businessman; the African general executive officer of the Scouts in Kenya; a highly qualified African lady who works in the Kenya Government, and there are representatives of different religions. Neither the Director of 'Undugu' or I is allowed to make any important decisions on our own; any major decision has to be taken by the whole Board of Directors. When I die, not much will change; they will just have to choose another Chairman. It is never good to stay too long in this kind of job: new blood is needed continually [This article tells of the foundation and early part of 'Undugu'. It had developed a great deal more, even before Fr. Naud's death, and is a completely independent organisation. 'Undugu's work is well known in many parts of the world.].
 
You cannot expect everybody to go and work in the slums of India, Latin America and Africa. Even if you live in Europe, you can help the poorest of the poor in these countries in one way or another. One way is to pay regularly a certain amount of money, so that a boy or girl can go to school, or give a little money to pay for his school uniform. You can help also by buying a subscription to a missionary magazine. You can help in many ways.
 
Every Sunday I say two High Masses in our town parish in Nairobi; the church is called St. Teresa's. At these two High Masses, there are more than 1,000 people each time; these two thousand people attending Mass are very important for me. The Sunday celebration unites the people who pray and discuss their problems during the week in their Christian communities in the different parts of the Parish where they live. It saves them from falling away from the Church and forming independent Churches. In Nairobi many Christians form their own independent Churches and become bishops in the Church they start and dress as bishops.
 
Instead of me preaching during the High Masses, sometimes the boys and girls of the slums dramatise a Gospel story. For instance, they acted 'The Good Samaritan in the slums of Nairobi'. They adapted the Gospel story completely to their own miserable slum life. Instead of a donkey, they used a wheelbarrow, because we have no donkeys in the slums. Also once an 'Undugu' women's group played a Gospel story adapted to their life instead of my sermon. They are much better at making the people aware of their religious and material needs and finding solutions to them than I who am a European priest and do not live directly in the slums am. They do not use theological language or beautiful phrases and words, but the slang language the people in the slums talk. Though the normal African in Kenya does not know this kind of language, I have learnt to use it in my sermons and the faithful like this very much. When we have a play based on the Gospel during Mass, all the people who are at the back of the Church start standing on the church benches, as is done when the Pope enters St. Peter's Church in Rome at Christmas Midnight Mass. After the play, there is much clapping of hands to show appreciation. The people get totally absorbed in the play, because, though it is a Gospel theme, it completely portrays and represents their daily lives. Some politicians in the slums do not appreciate too much this way of making the people aware of the values of the Gospel adapted to the situation in the slums.
 
Some pious Christians do not agree to laugh in Church because formerly, during catechism classes, they were told that is was forbidden to laugh in Church. When I went with my jazz band to sing African songs and Negro spirituals in German Catholic Churches, my African boys and girls asked me "Why are people in Europe so serious in church?" In addition, they added: "and also outside the church?" I try to make all the Christians participate in Prayer. I tell them: "Let us sing very loud all together, so that God can hear us and deliver us from our misery in the slums". Before starting the "Creed: I believe in God" I say "Only the ones who do not believe in God should keep their mouths shut, all who believe in God should open their mouths and sing loudly". When I find that during some Masses where people are not used to me and do not sing all together. I say "Some people try to sing without opening their mouths but you are not ventriloquists". Repeatedly during Mass, I say something and the people answer. In the African language, in normal conversation, it is very much the custom that you start the first part of the word and the people say the whole word. For example, before the kiss of peace before Holy Communion, I say, "All of us are bro..." and everyone of the thousand faithful add, "brothers", "because our brother is Je..." and everyone says "Jesus". In Kiswahili this is very easy: "Sisi zote ni ndu..." everybody answers "ndugu". "Kwa sababa ndugu yetu ni Je..." everybody says "Jesus". The weekly Mass has to be a joyful happening in which we feel united in 'Christian Undugu' = 'Brotherhood'.
 
We have five Masses each Sunday in our parish church and a congregation of around five thousand Catholics. We are three priests; there are about 160,000 people in our parish and about 30,000 of them are Catholic in one way or another.
 
Other important events are the Masses we sometimes, but not regularly, say in the slums at night. We say the Mass in a big house in the slums or outside in the open. After the Mass, we discuss the people's way of life and how to combine it, which in utter destitution is not easy, with the way of life taught by the Gospel. Another important part of our apostolate is to visit the people at home at night. Most of them are unmarried mothers with 6, 8 or 10 children. There are many more women than men in the slums. That is the reason that when you want power in the slums, the men have to try to get the sympathy of the women.
 
Some pious Catholics employ young girls as housemaids, who are only eight years old. They hardly pay them anything, give them very little to eat and only worn clothes to wear. They resent it when I preach against such young girls being used as slaves and not treated with respect as children and images of God. Once these housemaids are fourteen years old or younger, most of them automatically become prostitutes in order to be freed from this kind of slavery. Those Catholics who have housemaids of 8 years old, or a bit older, tell me that I should preach about Heaven and not about earth. The main theme of most of my sermons is the prayer: 'Our Father who art in Heaven ... Thy Kingdom come.' I explain that 'Thy Kingdom come' means that Heaven should already start on earth. That 'Thy Kingdom come', during the time we live on earth, means to build a better nation in Kenya. I also explain to them that the Gospel should be the 'Gospel in action', adapted to the urban situation of the slums of Nairobi. Religion is not only for one hour a week during Mass, although this joyful happening is a very important hour, but for all 7 days, 24 hours of each day, even when you sleep. It is easy to love one another during Mass, but more difficult for husband and wife who have been married for twenty years and have ten children to love one another all the time in their home. In the slums, homes are often inhuman dwellings, where fathers and mothers and often ten children live in one room and life is difficult - even to the extent that husband and wife sleep together in the presence of their children, which is completely against African customs. Seventy-five percent of all the mothers are unmarried women and most are prostitutes. It is still more difficult for children to see their mother sleep night after night with another man in their presence.
 
What is extremely important in Nairobi is to prevent the city from becoming another São Paolo, where there are 500,000 abandoned children; or from becoming another Calcutta where 300,000 poor people, whole families together sleep in front of luxury hotels on the streets. The Catholic Church cannot redress the situation on its own, but if all religions would work together with the Government and the City Council, then it could be possible to prevent the city of Nairobi from becoming into another São. Paolo or another Calcutta.
 
In 'Undugu', we do not force street boys and prostitutes and their families to become Catholics if they are Muslims. We believe that Muslims and others have freedom of religion: but the 'Undugu' movement shows them the 'Gospel in action'.
 
One of our difficulties in Nairobi is that town boys do not want to marry town girls, even if they are beautiful. They do not mind living in concubinage according to African custom with a town girl. Once she gets pregnant, they chase her away. If they really want to marry according to the customs of their tribe, they prefer bush girls. The town boys say, "Bush girls do not ask for tea in the morning, they do not leave their husbands for other men that have more money." If a town girl has a paid job, she can easily get married to a town boy even if she is not very beautiful.
 
On Sundays, the churches in Nairobi are full of young men and women, especially those between 18 and 40 years old. Most people in town are young people. In Europe fewer young people attend church! I preach in Europe each year, in many churches and in many different countries, I see very few people between 18 and 40 years on Sunday. We have to be careful in Africa not to disconnect the Sunday Mass from daily life. Young people in Africa will not go to Mass any more if Holy Mass is not relevant to their daily lives, their daily sorrows and their daily joys.
 
 

Please Note - There have been articles in previous issues of the magazine concerning children in Africa, and especially the plight of street children in Nairobi and the way the local people are trying to help them. Major items are the following articles: 'Enkare Nairobi', issue no. 305 (August-September, 1992), 'Africa's Children', issue no. 320 (Feb.-March, 1995), 'The Birthday Party' and in 'Home and Away', issue no. 333 (April-May, 1997).

This article first appeared in "White Fathers - White Sisters" (UK), issue 339, of April-May, 1998.

The article may be published freely with due acknowledgements to the "White Fathers - White Sisters" magazine.

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