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December, 2015:

Quanto costa un bambino? – How much for a child?

Last week, on December 16, in Nairobi, a well-dressed man in his forties arrived in Ndugu Mdogo, the Koinonia home for street children located in Kibera slum, and asked to speak to the manager. When Jack received him in the only room that could be described as “living room”, the visitor told him that he was sent by a woman who runs a large clothing store in Nairobi, and this lady has a friend who is the wife of a Minister in the South Sudan government. The talk took some time and in the meanwhile some of the children who were learning English in the same room had come closer, intrigued. The man came to the conclusion pointing to a well built teenager, saying, “The minister wife would like to adopt a child, for example someone like him” and after a brief pause to let the request sink in, he added “how much?” Jack asked him to repeat the whole story, not believing that he had got it right, but after several clarifications the conclusion was even more explicit; “Tell me the cost, I come back this afternoon with the cash and take him. I’ll take care of the trip”. Jack was now sure that the long story was not true. He asked him to wait a few minutes to have time to ask his superior, instead moving away from the room he went to close the gate and to call the police.

As they carried away the man who kept cursing Jack and proclaiming himself innocent mediator of international adoption, the police said they only in Kibera receive each month several complaints from the relatives of children and boys between 15 and 20 who disappear without a trace. They expressed the opinion that the boys are taken to Somalia to be trained by Al Shabaab, the terrorist group that organized the attacks on the Westgate shopping center in Nairobi in September 2013 and at the University of Garissa on Holy Thursday this year.

We do not know what the Kenyan police managed to find out from the man, but in this case the assumption that he was a recruiter for al Shabaab does not seem to be the most convincing. Why pay for a teenager when in Kibera there are dozens, hundreds of young people without a future, desperate, willing to do anything to be assured of a meal a day? The fact that the man had seem to prefer teenager would rather suggest something more sinister, like an international organization for organ harvesting.

There are researches affirming that about 20,000 people every year in this part of Africa are trafficked and many end up as sex slaves in Europe, others, especially the young and healthy, are subsequently killed to harvest organ (heart, liver, eyes, skin, all), and others are used for human sacrifices. Only last year in Uganda a businessman was sentenced to life imprisonment because at regular intervals he sacrificed adolescent boys to ensure success for his business.

This is an unusual Christmas tale. Yet this is the world in which Jesus became man, putting Himself as an helpless baby in our hands. Hands that can caress and bless, hands that can kill. The other Koinonia social workers have heard this story from Jack and concluded that by “becoming flesh” Jesus makes us look with always greater respect to the children who through different ways have been entrusted to our care. Truly, they are the flesh of God.

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