Kenyan-based University VC Says Encounter with Pope Francis on Laudato Si’ “prophetic”

Vice Chancellor of Nairobi-based Daystar University, Prof. Laban Ayiro during his encounter with Pope Francis at Pope Paul VI Audience Hall, Vatican City, on 3 November 2021. Credit: Courtesy Photo

The Vice Chancellor (VC) of Kenyan-based Daystar University developed a deep desire to meet Pope Francis when he read about the Holy Father’s approach to the conservation of the earth in his 2015 Encyclical Letter, Laudato Si’. That was just over a year ago.

As he reflected on Pope Francis’ description of the earth as “our common home”, Prof. Laban Ayiro told ACI Africa that he prayed with the intention to meet the Holy Father.

When his prayers were eventually answered this week, Wednesday, November 3, the Kenyan-born professor spoke to ACI Africa on phone from the Vatican and described the day’s encounter with Pope Francis as “prophetic.”

“My coming to Rome was prophetic,” Prof. Ayiro said in the interview with ACI Africa, and added, “I think it was God ordained because about 13 months ago, I made a pronouncement in the Chapel (at Daystar) that I would like to meet the Pope.”

Credit: Courtesy Photo


“My thinking that time was driven by his works on the integrated ecology model for the world, the Laudato Si’ phenomenon. I read his thoughts and his philosophy. And it wasn’t just about the climate. It was about our home, the earth. It touched me that he looked beyond the climate,” he said.

The Daystar University VC said that he found it amazing that Pope Francis had derived his thinking about the climate from St. Francis who expressed his devotion to God through his love for God’s creation and who the Catholic Church venerates as the patron saint of animals and the environment.

Prof. Ayiro says he found the Holy Father’s understanding of environmental conservation as all-inclusive. 

Making reference to Pope Francis’ Laudato Si’ that was published 24 May 2015, he says, “It (is) about the totality of the human community on this earth; it is not just about the climate, it’s about vulnerability and poverty; it’s about justice; it’s about family; it’s about sexuality, and the earth.”

In Laudato Si’, the Holy Father decries human activities leading to degradation and global warming, and makes recommendations toward environmental protection. 

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Prof. Ayiro notes that he read many other Encyclical Letters and admits that he found Laudato Si’ especially outstanding.

The member of the Pentecostal Assemblies of God (PAG) notes that the Holy Father’s approach to conservation of the environment and the protection of the earth should not just be left to Catholics to practice.

“This is not just about Catholics. This is about humanity,” he told ACI Africa, adding that this understanding drove him to seek an audience with Pope Francis.

“I said, I would wish to have an audience with the Pope. And even if it’s not a long audience, to seek encouragement and to let him know that I am one of his disciples in his thinking,” the University professor said.


The opportunity to meet the Holy Father came when the professor was invited to give a public lecture on Laudato Si’ at the Rome-based Sofia Technical University.

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Describing the invitation, Prof Ayiro says, “The university is under the Vatican and the Pope and they invited me to be one of the chief guests for their convocation and also to give a public lecture on Laudato Si’ and what I was doing on the environment.”

“I then shared with the (Apostolic) Nuncio in Nairobi my wish to meet Pope Francis, and he picked up the idea and we were able to get this Papal audience that we got today,” he said, and expressed gratitude to Archbishop Bert van Megen, the representative of the Holy Father in Kenya, who he said facilitated his meeting with Pope Francis at the Vatican.

Asked to describe the November 3 encounter with the Holy Father, Prof Ayiro says, “Wow, it’s hard to describe.”

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The Kenyan Professor who came from humble beginnings goes on to say that his meeting with Pope Francis was “prophetic” and a divine message that people of all faiths and non-believers work together to preserve earth as a home for all.

“I’m asking myself, what is God saying? Could I be a bridge of oneness that the philosophy and appeal in Laudato Si’ is seeking for? Can we have all of us Protestants, Catholics, Hindus, Muslims, and even those non-believers come together in our efforts to be one and drive the ecological agenda of our Mother Earth?” Prof. Ayiro posed.

The encounter with Pope Francis, he added, “was very deeply emotional and humbling for me and it has just strengthened my spirit and my faith in God.” 

Prof. Ayiro said that his days in Rome will be spent on “a lot of deep thinking about Laudato Si’ vis a vis Daystar University, Kenya, and Africa.”

He however did not wish to disclose details of his plans going forward saying, “Since these are thoughts that are in their infancy, I wish not to divulge my discussion because it is linked to my conversation with the Holy Father and we are just praying for God’s Providence.”

“We are praying just like Moses in Exodus had this dialogue with God and said, ‘you must go with us.’ So, I’m also asking God to go with me as I lift the image of Daystar University beyond anybody’s expectation, even mine,” Prof. Ayiro told ACI Africa during the November 3 interview. 

The VC who has been at the helm of Daystar University since 2019 expressed gratitude to the family of the Christ-centred non-denominational institution of higher learning saying that he has received support from all stakeholders. 

Credit: Courtesy Photo

“I just want to thank Daystar University for their love and their prayers,” Prof. Ayiro said, and explained, “It has been momentous from the time I came from the fundraising mission in the U.S. and we were able to raise funds for the first phase of the School of Nursing. And then I get this invitation to come to Rome and, great things are just happening around Daystar university.”

The widely published scholar Kenyan scholar called on the people of God to unite to conserve the environment and noted that the varied religious beliefs should not stand in the way of making the world a better place.

“I would ask all of us to remain steadfast and work towards oneness. Let’s not be divided by our denominational differences. Let’s embrace oneness in preserving our gift of earth from God. And once our journey on this earth is ended, let’s be sure to leave behind a world in which our children, grandchildren and great grandchildren will be able to thrive,” Prof. Ayiro said during the November 3 interview with ACI Africa.

Agnes Aineah is a Kenyan journalist with a background in digital and newspaper reporting. She holds a Master of Arts in Digital Journalism from the Aga Khan University, Graduate School of Media and Communications and a Bachelor's Degree in Linguistics, Media and Communications from Kenya's Moi University. Agnes currently serves as a journalist for ACI Africa.