Over time, Kenya has played host to some important guests.
Not so long ago, US President Barack Obama was in town after the country’s Secretary of State John Kerry and former president Bill Clinton.
Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi also showed up at some point. These are some of the ones who visited this year.
We at the University of Nairobi have been privileged to actually welcome some of them at our institution.
Just to mention a few, when Obama was senator, he addressed us at Taifa Hall.
Hilary Clinton also paid us a visit and, more recently, the Italian premier came to us.
I, however, do not think we shall ever have the opportunity as an institution to host as important a guest as we did last week.
The coming of Pope Francis to our grounds was a glorious and memorable event.
Never has there been such a multitude of people at our university as there was on Thursday.
Our graduation square and all our sports grounds, which are relatively big, were covered with a sea of humanity.
People started flooding in as early as 3am and two hours after the Mass was over and the Pope had gone, there were still some people hanging around.
The huge enthusiastic crowd and the presence of so many clergymen and top government officials aside, there was symbolism in the choice of venue that may have escaped the attention of many.
SHAPING THE FUTURE
It is captured in the seventh paragraph of the Pope’s homily: “Here, in the heart of this university, where the minds and hearts of new generations are being shaped...”.
In my view, the choice of the university as the venue for the Mass was not by accident.
Institutions of learning such as universities and even schools have great significance in any society.
It is here that the society of the future is formed.
This must be the reason missionaries evangelised through the medium of secular education.
They established schools where they prepared young people for careers in the future, gave them life skills and, in the process, preached faith to them.
After the Education Act of 1968 when the management of schools was taken up by the government, things changed.
It is as if the church started keeping away from the schools and institutions of learning.
It is my deep conviction that if faith organisations want to remain relevant, they must have an active presence in schools and higher institutions of learning.
This way, they will help shape “the minds and hearts of new generations”.