BANGUI, Central African Republic— Pope Francis on Monday named for an finish to religious violence in this African country, capping his trip to the continent with a go to to a mosque that is a haven for Muslims fleeing violence by Christian militias.
“Those who claim to feel in God must also be gentlemen and women of peace,” he mentioned. “Together, we have to say no to hatred, to revenge and to violence, specifically that violence which is perpetrated in the identify of a faith or of God himself.”
Later on, whilst flying again to Rome, the pope said that there was no special url in between Islam and violence.
“You cannot reject a religion since there are some fundamentalist teams, or even a lot of of them at a specified second in heritage,” he mentioned. “How many wars, and not only spiritual wars, have we Christians waged? It wasn’t Muslims who dedicated the sack of Rome.”
Under large protection, the pope’s visit to the modest mosque in the capital’s Muslim quarter, known as PK5, was the fruits of a six-day journey that also provided Kenya and Uganda.
While Pope Francis has been eager to go to this nation, one of the world’s poorest, considerations for his protection had thrown the final leg of his journey in question until the previous moment.
Since 2012, this country has been locked in a bloody civil war that has progressively taken on spiritual proportions. Some have hoped that the pay a visit to of the pope, who known as on Sunday for the militias to lay down their arms, could rekindle a peace process. 1000’s of French forces and U.N. peacekeepers are deployed in the country in an try to control the violence.
In accordance to Human Rights Observe, about 122,000 Muslims lived in Bangui before the start of the civil war. But attacks by Christian militias have pushed hundreds of hundreds of Muslims from the region or compelled them to find shelter in enclaves.
In the Central African Republic, about 15% of people are Muslims, in accordance to the CIA Factbook. Catholics make up about a third of the populace, in accordance to the Vatican.
The PK5 enclave in Bangui is the very last remaining Muslim neighborhood in the city, with fifteen,000 people. Given that late September, at minimum 100 individuals have died there, in accordance to Human Legal rights Observe, several of them civilians. Hundreds of houses have been wrecked, and the picket skeletons of empty stalls are all that continue being of the city’s when-bustling market.
Pope Francis’ dedication to visit PK5 mirrored his repeated calls for interreligious dialogue. The pope traveled to the mosque in his open popemobile, greeting crowds ready for him together the side of the highway.
Blue-helmeted U.N. peacekeepers lined the main street and blocked entry from the dusty, pink-clay side streets. Some have been posted in vehicles and armored vehicles with guns mounted on the best. Armed troopers had been also perched in the mosque’s 3 minarets.
At the mosque, the pope was greeted by the head imam as well as Bangui’s Catholic archbishop. About 250 men sat cross-legged on threadbare rugs, listening to the pope say that the religiously enthusiastic violence in the country “disfigures the confront of God.”
“Christians and Muslims are brothers and sisters,” mentioned the 78-calendar year-outdated pope, who appeared drained at occasions in the course of the morning’s events. “Those who assert to feel in God have to also be guys and females of peace.”
The Argentine pope has been daring in denouncing violence against Christians close to the world even though supporting interfaith dialogue, saying he would even be willing to speak with Islamic Point out fighters in the identify of peace. As archbishop of Buenos Aires and as pontiff, Pope Francis has enjoyed shut relations with Muslim leaders.
At the mosque on Monday, he bowed his head throughout the recitation of a Muslim prayer and then questioned the imam to get him to the mosque’s mihrab, the prayer niche in a mosque that signifies the route of Mecca. The pair stood silently collectively for a second.
Right after the ceremony, the pope visited with men and women living in soiled tents in the courtyard of the mosque, including combined Muslim-Christian households, who have taken refuge there. Pope Francis also questioned to make an impromptu check out to a community university throughout from the mosque, housed in a building with a corrugated steel roof. Teenage boys wearing T-shirts with the pope’s likeness stood outside the house.
Some at the mosque conference had been careful about no matter whether the pope’s pay a visit to could aid inspire elections that could provide reconciliation. Elections experienced been scheduled for October but were postponed due to the fact of the battling.
“We hope the visit will help us to commence with elections,” mentioned Finance Minister Abdalla Kadre’ Assane. “But the pope is not ample.”
The very last elected head of condition, President François Bozize, was overthrown by Muslim forces in 2013. A transitional council selected Catherine Samba-Panza as interim president previous calendar year to oversee a return to democracy.
Subsequent the visit, the pope celebrated Mass at a sports sophisticated in the city’s centre. Although the stadium retains thirty,000 people, it was not stuffed to capacity, considering that organizers had constrained the amount of tickets dispersed by means of the country’s local parishes.
The pope mentioned that “in these instances of conflict, detest and war,” it is simple “to be led into selfishness, distrust, violence, destructiveness, vengeance, indifference to and exploitation of people who are most vulnerable.”
It requires braveness to “forgive these who have wronged us,” he mentioned during his homily.
Adhering to the Mass, the pope boarded his flight back to Rome.
The pope was requested then if the Catholic Church must alter its teaching in opposition to condom use to enhance prevention of HIV/AIDS, which continues to be a scourge in Africa.
He did not answer right but called the issue “small” and “casuistic,” and stated debate over the morality of condom use should wait until soon after the resolution of “tragic, gentleman-manufactured illnesses” this sort of as malnutrition, environmental difficulties and arms dealing.
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