Kibera, Nairobiâ€™s largest slum, is a place where religion is seldom taken lightly. To walk through this sprawling township, constructed predominantly with corrugated scrap metal, is to walk through a sea of churches, each one proudly flying a flag above its doors. One reason religion remains so important in a place like Kibera is because for many of Nairobiâ€™s poorest, it not only provides much needed spiritual guidance, but also a safety net that would otherwise not exist. A second reason for their proliferation is that, like most things in Kibera, religion is a commodity to be exploited like everything else.
During weekdays, after the offerings of oneâ€™s congregation have run dry, many preachers in Kibera open their churches for private healing sessions. For a fee that can range anywhere between $0.25 and $125, healers claim to be able to do anything from curing the sick and removing curses, to exorcising the devil out of oneâ€™s system. It is largely through prayer and the use of special holy waters that this is done.
The healersâ€™ methods in Kibera rest largely on Christian beliefs mixed with more traditional tribal customs. The result is a sort of quasi-Christianity, neither Christian or tribal in essence, but rather indicative of that in-between world where so many in Kibera live.