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Expat Steve Felder meets Pope Francis in Nairobi




Expat South African Steve Felder, who lives in Nairobi, meeting Pope Francis on the pope’s visit to Kenya.

Moreover, he was invited the following morning to a “closed door” interreligious dialogue, with 25 religious leaders, at Nairobi’s Apostolic Nunciate. Felder is the Kenyan representative on the African Jewish Congress, and a council member of the Nairobi Hebrew Congregation.

“The Pope said to me ‘Bless you’ and ‘shalom’ and presented me with a medallion to commemorate his visit,” Felder told the SA Jewish Report.

“In an increasingly interdependent world,” Pope Francis told the religious leaders, “we see ever more clearly the need for interreligious understanding, friendship and collaboration in defending the G-d-given dignity of individuals and peoples and their right to live in freedom and happiness. 

“By upholding respect for that dignity and those rights, the religions play an essential role in forming consciences, instilling in the young the profound spiritual values of our respective traditions and training good citizens, capable of infusing civil society with honesty, integrity and a world view which values the human person over power and material gain. Here I think of the importance of our common conviction that the G-d whom we seek to serve, is a G-d of peace. 

“His holy name must never be used to justify hatred and violence. I know that the barbarous attacks on Westgate Mall, Garissa University College and Mandera are fresh in your minds. All too often, young people are being radicalised in the name of religion to sow discord and fear, and to tear at the very fabric of our societies. 

“How important it is that we be seen as prophets of peace, peacemakers who invite others to live in peace, harmony and mutual respect! May the A-mighty touch the hearts of those who engage in this violence, and grant his peace to our families and communities.”

Felder described the Pope as “incredibly humble and a uniting figure”. 

Felder is an executive committee member of the Young Presidents Organisation and serves on numerous boards. He was a finalist in the SA Jewish Report’s Jewish Achiever Awards this year and next month is due to receive an award from the president of Lithuania, having been very active in forging ties between Lithuania and South Africans of Lithuanian descent.

This year he delivered a presentation at the fifth annual “Aid for Trade” conference at the World Trade Organisation in Geneva in June.

Felder, who is married to Devorah (a lawyer and former Johannesburger), has three children Seth (5), Eden (4) and Dale (six months), and was educated at Herzlia School in Cape Town, UCT, and has an MBA from Unisa Graduate School of Business (Midrand), and attended the INSEAD Business School, Fontainebleau, France.

In business since 1995, he has worked in management positions and directorships in South Africa, Canada and the US.

He has been with Maersk Line – the world’s largest container shipping company – since May 2004, as regional manager for Johannesburg and Botswana; as sales director for sub-Saharan Africa; as managing director of Israel and the Palestinian Authority (Israel-based) and is now managing director for Eastern Africa.

“Kenya has around 1 000 Jews, a mix of locals and expats/diplomats,” he said.

Regarding the recent terror strikes in Kenya by Al Shabaab, Felder said he was not afraid: “You cannot let it rule your life.”

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