For the past 8 years I have been visiting the so-called "Industrial Area Remand and Allocation Prison" on a regular basis. In 2005, 3500 men were being held there for temporary detention, sometimes for many years. But one year later, in 2006, the number had escalated to over 5000. One reason for this is the general poverty, which is bound to lead to increased violence. In a nutshell and over-simplified, Kenya is said to be a country of 30 billionaires and 30 million have-nots. This imbalance produces massive social tensions, which then explode in the form of violent robberies, business with stolen goods, fights, drug dealing and consuming, rape, bank hold-ups, mafia-style crimes, murder, nightly raids on private properties or hijackings of entire buses filled with people who may be robbed of their personal belongings and even be gang-raped. Hence our prisons are totally overcrowded. Small crooks are crammed together with big and dangerous gangsters and so, while in prison, learn how to become hard-core criminals. The over 90 Kenyan prisons are far from doing anything to socially rehabilitate their inmates so as to release them into a normal, decent life. This makes the task of a regular pastoral ministry all the more important. During religious services, where and when people are taken seriously, they can freely and sincerely express their pains and problems and so may find a way to inner healing and comfort. Africans are deeply religious people and grateful for any form of spiritual assistance. Every church service that I conduct strengthens not only their own faith, but mine too.
Father Peter Meienberg