From Lambeth Palace press office
On the final day of his visit to Kenya, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, spent the morning in Kibera, one of Africa's largest slums with a population of 700,000 living in an area of 600 acres.
Kibera has all the problems that are the result of extreme overcrowding and poverty - unemployment, extortion, and substance and alcohol abuse to name a few. The Archbishop was welcomed at the church of the Holy Trinity in Kibera where he was able to learn about the work of the Centre for Urban Mission whose aim is to transform the informal settlements through the ministry of the local churches. There followed a tour of several initiatives located within the precincts of Holy Trinity, including a tailoring project for vulnerable women, teaching them a skill with which they can turn their lives around and feed their families.
Dr Williams was also taken around the corrugated iron classrooms of the church school, where children from the slums are given not only an education but also regular meals. Many of the children are left from a very young age to grow up on the streets as their parents leave in the early hours of the morning to try to get employment and food. Schools therefore provide a safe place as well as an education. The Centre for Urban Mission also identified a need for after-school homework clubs as they found many of the children were trying to beat the clock and complete their homework before sunset - once darkness had come, they had no electric light to work from - as well as the issue of space with the homes in the slum being so overcrowded. The teachers at the school were very proud that they had taught two children from Kibera who had then gone on to study at university, a huge achievement in an area of such extreme poverty.
Speaking about his morning in Kibera, the Archbishop praised the remarkable work being done by the local churches:
"The work being done here is so inspiring because it shows what can be done when people are prepared to identify the problems that they face - not as someone else's issue, not as doing good to someone else, but actually standing alongside as God in Christ stands alongside - that is the beginning and end of all real Christian mission and service."
The Archbishop concluded his visit to Kibera by giving a homily at Holy Trinity Church in which he spoke about the meaning of Emmanuel – 'God with us', explaining how God is at work in every human being and every part of the universe, restoring hope to those whose situation may seem hopeless, and being ever present in the face of those we live amongst and serve.
The full text of the Archbishop's homily can be found here