Pope Francis says it is OK to smack children if their ‘dignity is maintained’

On 6th February 2015 Pope Francis told parents it is OK to spank their children to discipline them – as long as their dignity is maintained.

Francis made the remarks this week during his weekly general audience, which was devoted to the role of fathers in the family.

Francis outlined the traits of a good father: one who forgives but is able to “correct with firmness” while not discouraging the child.

“One time, I heard a father in a meeting with married couples say ‘I sometimes have to smack my children a bit, but never in the face so as to not humiliate them’,” Francis said.

“How beautiful.” he added. “He knows the sense of dignity! He has to punish them but does it justly and moves on.”

The Rev Thomas Rosica, who collaborates with the Vatican press office, said the pope was obviously not speaking about committing violence or cruelty against a child but rather about “helping someone to grow and mature”.

“Who has not disciplined their child or been disciplined by parents when we are growing up?” Rosica said in an email. “Simply watch Pope Francis when he is with children and let the images and gestures speak for themselves. To infer or distort anything else … reveals a greater problem for those who don’t seem to understand a pope who has ushered in a revolution of normalcy of simple speech and plain gesture.”


Pope Francis on Needy Children of the World

During the general audience of April 8th, Pope Francis spoke about children in need. He said:

We have already spoken of the great gifts that are our children, but today, unfortunately, we must talk of the ‘stories of passion’ that many of them have lived. So many children from the beginning are rejected, abandoned, robbed of their childhood and their future. Some dare to say that it is a mistake to make them come into the world. This is shameful! Do not unload our faults on children, please! Children are never ‘a mistake’. Their hunger is not a mistake, nor is their poverty, their fragility, their abandonment – many children abandoned in the streets; and neither is their ignorance or their failure – so many children who do not know what a school is. If anything, these are reasons to love them more, more generously. What good are solemn declarations of human rights, of the rights of the child, if we then punish children for the mistakes of adults?

Every child who begs on the streets, who is denied an education or medical care, is a cry to God and a charge against the system that we, adults, have built, and unfortunately, these children are prey for criminals, who exploit them for unworthy trades or businesses, or training them to war and violence. Even in wealthy countries, they suffer due to family crises and living conditions which are at times inhumane. In every case, their childhood is violated in body and soul. But none of these children is forgotten by the Father who is in heaven! None of their tears will be forgotten!

It is true that thanks to God, the children with serious difficulties often find extraordinary parents, who are ready for any sacrifice and with great generosity. But these parents should not be left alone! We should accompany their labour, but also offer them moments of shared joy and carefree merriment, so they are not only preoccupied with the therapeutic routine.

When it comes to children, in any case, we should never hear those legalistic formulas of defence such as: ‘After all, we are not a charity,’ or ‘in the privacy of one’s own home, everyone is free to do what they want ‘, or’ we are sorry, we cannot do anything ‘. These words are of no use when it comes to children, who all too often bear the brunt of lives worn by a precarious and poorly paid job, by impossible schedules, by inefficient transport … But children also pay the price for immature unions and irresponsible separations, they are the first victims; they suffer the results of the culture of exasperated subjective rights, and because of it become more precocious children. They often absorb violence that are not able to rid themselves of, and are forced to become accustomed to degradation.

Even in our time, as in the past, the Church puts her maternity at the service of children and their families. She brings God’s blessings, His maternal tenderness, His firm reproach and strong condemnation to the parents and children of our world. Brothers and sisters, think about it: You cannot mess with children!”

When it comes to children who are born into this world, no sacrifice by adults will be judged too expensive or too great, in preventing a child from believing he or she is a mistake, worthless and being abandoned to the wounds of life and arrogance of some men and women. The Lord will judge our lives by listening to what children’s angels tell Him, angels who according to the Gospel of Matewes always behold the face of the Father who is in heaven. We should always ask ourselves: what are the children’s angels telling God?

Pope Francis


Thursday, 16 April 2015

I offer you my fraternal welcome on the occasion of your visit ad Limina Apostolorum as you make your pilgrimage to the tombs of Blessed Peter and Paul. Your time in the Eternal City and your visits to the offices of the Roman Curia provide numerous opportunities to deepen communion between the Church in Kenya and the See of Peter. I thank Cardinal Njue for his warm words on your behalf and in the name of the priests, men and women religious, and all the lay faithful of Kenya. I ask you kindly to assure them of my prayers and spiritual closeness.

For some of you, this visit to Rome will bring to mind your time spent here preparing for ordination to the priesthood. The many seminarians studying in this City, like the numerous seminarians in your own country, are an eloquent sign of God’s goodness to the universal Church and to your Dioceses. They remind us of the great resource you have in the many youth of your local Churches, as well as your paternal care in helping young men answer the call to the priesthood. I think in a special way of the zeal, hope and dedication of seminarians who wish to give everything to Christ through service to the Church. While the seeds of a priestly vocation are sown long before a man arrives at the seminary, first in the heart of the family, it pertains to seminary formators to nurture the growth of these vocations. For this reason, it is imperative that seminarians’ goodwill and earnest desires be met with a formation that is humanly sound, spiritually deep, intellectually rich, and pastorally diverse (cf. Pastores Dabo Vobis, 43-59). I am aware of the challenges which this entails, and I encourage you to strengthen your efforts, individually within your Dioceses and collectively in your Episcopal Conference, so that the good work which the Lord is accomplishing in your candidates for priestly Orders will be brought to completion (cf. Phil 1:6).

In the exercise of your episcopal office, each of you is called to be a pastor of souls (cf. Christus Dominus, 1), a father and a shepherd (ibid., 16). This will be accomplished primarily with your closest collaborators, your priests. They need you to guide them with clarity and strength, but also, and especially, with compassion and tenderness. As Bishops, we must always look to the example of Jesus, who tended personally to the Apostles, spent time with them and enjoyed their company. You also must strive to be with your priests, to know them and listen to them. Your support will help them to be faithful to the promises they have made and strengthen your common efforts to build up God’s kingdom in Kenya.

In this Year of Consecrated Life, my heart is also close to the men and women religious who have renounced the world for the sake of the kingdom thus bringing many blessings to the Church and society in Kenya. I ask you, dear brother Bishops, to convey to them my gratitude, affection and prayerful closeness, and to express my hope that during this year dedicated to consecrated life, they may be joyful and brave as they point to Christ by their lives. I encourage you to deepen the bonds of charity and ecclesial communion that you have with the religious Institutes in Kenya. The Church’s mission, though multifaceted, is one: much more will be accomplished for the praise and glory of God’s name when our actions are in harmony.

The united and selfless efforts of many Catholics in Kenya are a beautiful witness and example for the country. In so many ways, the Church is called to offer hope to the broader culture, a hope based on her unstinting witness to the newness of life promised by Christ in the Gospel. In this regard, without wishing to interfere in temporal affairs, the Church must insist, especially to those who are in positions of leadership and power, on those moral principles which promote the common good and the upbuilding of society as a whole. In the fulfilment of her apostolic mission, the Church must take a prophetic stand in defence of the poor and against all corruption and abuse of power. She must do so, in the first place, by example. Do not be afraid to be a prophetic voice! Do not be afraid to preach with conviction! Bring the wisdom of the Church, enshrined particularly in her social teaching, to bear on Kenyan society.

In a particular way, I wish to offer a word of appreciation to the many humble and dedicated workers in Church-run institutions throughout your country, whose daily activities bring spiritual and material benefit to countless people. The Church has contributed, and continues to contribute, to all of Kenya through a diverse array of schools, institutes, universities, clinics, hospitals, homes for the sick and dying, orphanages and social agencies. Through these, dedicated priests, religious men and women, and laity make a vital contribution to the welfare of the entire nation. Such praiseworthy works are continually sustained by the life of prayer and worship experienced in so many parishes, convents, monasteries and lay movements. May this hymn of praise and the fruits of your apostolic works continue to grow!

Dear brothers, the Church in Kenya must always be true to her mission as an instrument of reconciliation, justice and peace. In fidelity to the entire patrimony of the faith and moral teaching of the Church, may you strengthen your commitment to working with Christian and non-Christian leaders alike, in promoting peace and justice in your country through dialogue, fraternity and friendship. In this way you will be able to offer a more unified and courageous denunciation of all violence, especially that committed in the name of God. This will bring deeper reassurance and solace to all your fellow citizens. With you, I pray for all those who have been killed by acts of terror or ethnic or tribal hostilities in Kenya as well as other areas of the continent. I think most especially of the men and women killed at Garissa University College on Good Friday. May their souls rest in peace and their loved ones be consoled, and may those who commit such brutality come to their senses and seek mercy.

I wish to offer you a word of encouragement in your pastoral care to the family. As the Church prepares for the Ordinary Synod dedicated to “the pastoral challenges to the family in the context of evangelization”, I am confident that you will continue to assist and strengthen all those families who are struggling because of broken marriages, infidelity, addiction or violence. I ask you likewise to intensify the Church’s ministry to youth, forming them to be disciples capable of making permanent and life-giving commitments – whether to a spouse in marriage, or to the Lord in the priesthood or religious life. Teach the saving truth of the Gospel of Life to all. May the beauty, truth and light of the Gospel shine forth ever more radiantly from the youthful and joyful face of the Kenyan Church.

Finally, with you I pray that the forthcoming Jubilee of Mercy will be a time of great forgiveness, healing, conversion, and grace for the entire Church in Kenya. Touched by Christ’s infinite mercy, may all the faithful be signs of the reconciliation, justice and peace that God wills for your country, and indeed, all of Africa.

With these thoughts, dear brother Bishops, I commend all of you to the intercession of Mary, Mother of the Church, and with great affection I impart my Apostolic Blessing, which I willingly extend to all the beloved priests, religious and lay faithful of Kenya.

Pope Francis

New Study on Human Trafficking in Kenya by SOLWODI, HAART and TRACE Kenya

Article by R. Muko.

The new study on human trafficking in Kenya. The study has managed to explore how human trafficking manifests itself in the socio-cultural, political and economic dimensions of Kenya.

The new study on human trafficking in Kenya exploring how the vice manifests itself in the socio-cultural, political and economic dimensions. The study will also be available at the “arts to end slavery exhibition.”

Lewa R., Christensen J. and Adhoch P. (2004) Human Trafficking in Kenya: The Extent, Forms and Nature of Human Exploitation Today. Nairobi. Kenya Peace Network.

In November 2014 three organizations namely Solidarity with Women in Distress (SOLWODI), Trace Kenya and Awareness Against Human Trafficking (HAART) published a study entitled “Human Trafficking in Kenya: The extent, forms and Nature of Exploitation Today.” The three are members of the Kenya Peace Network (KPN). A network of organizations working to promote human rights and basic freedoms in Kenya.

The strength of the study is that it draws from the experiences of the three organizations in addressing the problem of human trafficking in Kenya. As can be remembered SOLWODI was at the forefront in  training hotels to implement the code of conduct to prevent sexual exploitation in the travel and tourism sector a program it had started since early 2000s. By  2007 it was pushing to get the coastal hotels to sign it. Apart from its work with the code, the organization has done great work in providing psycho social and emotional assistance to the commercial sex workers of Mombasa. Trace Kenya on the other hand works with communities, individuals, partners, institutions and organizations in the coastal areas to counter human trafficking. Trace Kenya works with vulnerable populations that could be easily susceptible to sexual and other forms of exploitation such as labor; child pornography, sex tourism, early child marriages, forced marriages and gender based violence. Lastly HAART  works to create awareness against human trafficking in the grassroots communities in Nairobi and its environs, assisting victims of trafficking, prosecuting offenders and conducting research.

The study “Human Trafficking in Kenya: The extent, forms and Nature of Exploitation Today” has provided information on the extent of human trafficking exploring topics such as  smuggling, sexual exploitation, cultural migration and cultural practices in Kenya. Cultural practices include beading and female genital mutilation in some communities and more generally the diminished space of women to participate in ownership. The study is careful on the question of statistics and uses those provided by ECPAT suggesting that 25,000 children living in the Kenyan streets (60,000 in Nairobi) are vulnerable to  human trafficking and harzadous forms of child labour. The most common form of human trafficking in Kenya is centered on “child domestic work”. The study also acknowledges that migrants are at a risk of exploitation giving examples of Kenyans in the Middle East and refugees from neighboring countries around Kenya. The study also shows that Asians and Eastern Europeans are also trafficked to Kenya. Young Kenyan males are also in danger of being recruited in militia and terror groups. The study identifies human trafficking routes and communities where trafficking is most likely to occur. The study finds that though internal human trafficking is very evident in Kenya, it is not known. One gap that the study left out was the issue of infants trafficking which is quite a common happens time and again in our hospitals.

Though the study explores the legislative environment in Kenya, it does not go deep. It mentions the 2010 counter trafficking act, the 2001 children act, 2006 sexual offenses act and 2007 Employment Act and only mentions scantly about their relevance to the heinous crime of human trafficking. On the other hand the study acknowledges that it is difficult to bring culprits to book and at times the victims are the ones who would find themselves victimized by the laws that are supposed to protect them. A situation like this shows a weakness in the legal system that needs analysis and solution. The study also mentions about the Counter Trafficking Taskforce that was disbanded in 2013. It however does not evaluate how effective its work was and whether it needs to be revived. Lastly, despite there being the human trafficking laws, there is a need to assess whether existence of other related laws such as the the 2001 children act, 2006 sexual offenses act, 2007 Employment Act and the penal code provides a strength of action to counter trafficking endeavors. On the other hand a critical assessment of the government efforts would be in order;  law enforcement and other supportive services.

The study remains however a great eye opener on the manifestations of human trafficking in Kenya. It is a great contribution in the subject and would become of great benefit to the concerned government ministries, civil society, academia and the research community.

Residents of Njiru Learn About Gender Responsive Budgeting

Stephen Kaka of Consolation East Africa taking Njiru Residents through a session on Gender Responsive Budgeting

Stephen Kaka of Consolation East Africa taking Njiru Residents through a session on Gender Responsive Budgeting

Story by Elina Omwoha

On 14th March 2015, 40 residents of Njiru participated in a Gender Responsive Budgeting workshop facilitated by Consolation East Africa. The training  addressed the challenges faced by women in their various escapades. The challenges were in  participation in public interest processes, political leadership, pushing for  political accountability and having low skills and capacities.

Facilitators and participants discussed about their experiences of championing for GRB in their respective sub-counties. The workshop also featured other topics such as Gender and human rights, Women and Political leadership, Budget cycle and Social Audit.

The gender responsive budget was introduced by Millicent Agutu, who defined gender responsive budgeting as

“a  deliberate government planning, programming and budgeting that contributes to the advancement of gender equality and the fulfillment of women’s rights.”  GRB aims at strengthening the capacity of the government to embed gender perspectives into all its governance processes. Gender on the other hand was defined as; the state of being male or female with reference to social and cultural differences rather than biological.

GRB is not only confined to governance issue but it should also be seen as a human rights issue. Human rights are considered as basic entitlements calling on governments to provide and protect them. Human rights are inalienable and do include right to life, right to privacy, freedom of expression, freedom of media, freedom of religion and economic and social rights (food, education, clean and safe water and social security). These rights and those that include gender based rights are entrenched in the constitution in its bill of rights chapter and in the various affirmative action provisions. These are as follow:

  1. The Kenyan constitution provides for the enactment of legislation for the protection of matrimonial property with special interest on the matrimonial home, during and upon the termination of the marriage.
  2. The Constitution maintains a one third requirement for either gender in elective bodies giving women of Kenya at least 1/3 minimum in elective public bodies, of which we are still far from, due to the fact that in Kenya we do not have a woman governor, a senator and most MCA’s are nominated and worst is the position of women representatives held by men-women representatives.
  3. The new Kenyan Constitution accords the right to health including reproductive health to all.
  4. Kenyan women are able to pass on citizenship to their children regardless of whether or not they are married to Kenyans.
  5. The new constitution assures that parental responsibility shall be shared between parents regardless of marital status.
  6. That the workshop was to address the empowerment of civil society and more so towards women who the patriarchal structure embody as ‘’beasts of burden. ‘This is perceived as the unique requirement of women in the wider society.
  7. That gain for women derived from the current constitution includes; life in relation to the right of abortion when and if the life of the mother is in danger, child and parental responsibilities, entitlement to property like land inheritance from the parents, social and economic infrastructural rights among others.
  8. That the general rights of children include; freedom from slavery and forced labour, socio-economic development, entitlement to a culture and language attached values.

Discussion: What hinders women from political leadership?

This section was facilitated by Edna Wanjiku, who involved the women into the discussion by asking them the above question. Some of their replies were:

  1. Lack of sharing information regarding public meetings.
  2. Most time and cash is wasted on household chores and budgeting.
  3. Lack of skilled leadership.
  4. Negative attitude towards other women who are striving to get at the top.
  5. Inadequate ability to participate.
  6. Poverty, including lack of thinking abroad and lack of jobs.
  7. A lot of responsibilities at home.
  8. Inadequate knowledge of their Constitutional Rights.
  9. Lack of independent mind.
  10. Lack of basic information on politics
  11. Limited financial resources.
  12. Lack of mentorship policies.
  13. Diverse priorities and politics is not one of them.

Budget Cycle

The budget cycle was facilitated by Elina Omwoha who took the members through the procedure of budget making in Kenya. She explained that the procedure for the subsequent year budget starts immediately after the budget has been read on June. The budget cycle starts on August, where  the fiscal strategy paper is passed by the 30th August. From 1st September to 28th February, the Ministries make the collection of priorities and make the estimates regarding the needs of the citizens. In March 30th, and April the estimates that have been produced by the Ministries are then tabled in the County assembly whereby it is then taken to the citizens for approval. From April to early May, here the second round of negotiation process of the budget and if the agreement cannot be reached, the Ministry of Finance reports the details to the economic committee of cabinet for further review. The Ministry of finance then completes the consolidated budget plan and submits it to the Minister, who in turn presents it to the cabinet. By June, the Minister of finance presents the finalized budget to the National Assembly for their review and approval.

Social Audit

The social audit part was presented by Edna Wanjiku who also involved the trainees in the discussion; she started by defining what social audit means: it is the monitoring of the usage of fund and it helps in reducing likelihood of misallocation and corruption. Social Audit is made by a social auditor who is best drawn from the members of the committee.

She asked the participants to identify some of the social audit improvements within the area and they included; roads, bridge, schools, doctor’s houses, road electricity and idle field has been improved and secured and now used as a market. Social Audit was has the role of preventing abuse of money, corruption and to ensure transparency

Going back to the community

This section was conducted by Stephen Kaka who asked a number of questions randomly to the women/participants. He asked what they have learned from the training and how they are going to impose them, the responses included:

  1. They have known and understood their rights
  2. They will share whatever they have learned with other women.
  3. To form groups for them to get funds to develop themselves, including forming themselves in groups such as uwezo, women empowerment and youth empowerment groups.
  4. Others requested for another training to be conducted soon and include persons with disability

Other suggestions/issues that the women raised included;

How to get fund for the elderly and what criteria do they use?

One woman needed to know what procedure she could follow to reclaiming her vegetables that have been eaten by the animals of the neighbour.

Cow dung to be used for making bio gas and charcoal (youths to form groups and do the work). Additionally, they should also use animal horns to make ornaments and other jewelries such as earrings.