, BANGUI, Central African Republic, Nov 30 – Pope Francis visited a mosque in the Bangui flashpoint PK5 district Monday, where he urged religious reconciliation.
The Pope who visited the Koudoukou mosque under heavy guard by UN peacekeepers, made it clear his Pastoral Visit to the Central African Republic would not be complete if it did not include this encounter with the Muslim community.
“We are well aware that the recent events and acts of violence which have shaken your country were not grounded in properly religious motives. Those who claim to believe in God must also be men and women of peace,” the 78-year-old Pontiff said.
He observed that Christians, Muslims and those who believe in traditional religions have lived together in peace for many years.
“They ought, therefore, to remain united in working for an end to every act which, from whatever side, disfigures the face of God and whose ultimate aim is to defend particular interests by any and all means, to the detriment of the common good.”
He said together, the world must say no to hatred, to revenge and to violence, particularly that violence which is perpetrated in the name of a religion or of God himself.
“In these dramatic times, Christian and Muslim leaders have sought to rise to the challenges of the moment. They have played an important role in re-establishing harmony and fraternity among all.”
He called for concerted local and international efforts to end sectarian violence in the CAR.
“We cannot fail to express hope that the forthcoming national consultations will provide the country with leaders capable of bringing Central Africans together, thus becoming symbols of national
unity rather than merely representatives of one or another faction.”
He said peace in the Central African Republic would “prove a positive influence and help extinguish the smouldering tensions which prevent Africans from benefitting from that development which they deserve and to which they have a right.”
The Pope later proceeded to the capital’s 20,000-seat Barthelemy Boganda Stadium to celebrate mass.
He was due to leave Bangui early in the afternoon Monday for the Vatican, at the conclusion of his three-nation five day African visit.