Pope Francis has ventured into one of the world’s most harmful neighbourhoods to implore Christians and Muslims to finish a spiral of hate, vendetta and bloodshed that has killed thousands more than the past three years and divided a nation.
Ending his three-nation Africa tour below intense security, Pope Francis passed by way of a no-man’s zone to enter PK5, a district exactly where most Muslims who have not fled Central African Republic’s capital Bangui have now sought refuge.
The PK5 neighbourhood has been cut off from the rest of the city for the past two months by a ring of so-named anti-balaka Christian militias, who block supplies from entering and Muslims from leaving.
A heavy deployment of United Nations peacekeepers with rifles and bullet-proof vests was present throughout PK5 and armoured automobiles mounted with machineguns had been positioned along the route of Pope Francis’ motorcade.
UN sharpshooters looked out from the tops of the minarets crowning the mosque, exactly where hundreds of PK5’s Muslims listened as Francis produced an impassioned appeal for an finish to the violence.
“Christians and Muslims are brothers and sisters,” he stated after a speech by Imam Tidiani Moussa Naibi, one particular of the nearby religious leaders trying to foster dialogue.
“Those who claim to think in God should also be men and girls of peace,” he stated, noting that Christians, Muslims and followers of traditional religions had lived together in peace for numerous years.
He appealed for “an end to every act which, from whatever side, disfigures the face of God and whose ultimate aim is to defend certain interests by any and all implies”.
“Collectively, we have to say no to hatred, to revenge and to violence, especially that violence which is perpetrated in the name of a religion or of God himself. God is peace, ‘salam,'” the Pope stated, employing the Arabic word for peace.
‘Christians, Muslims obliged to really like every other’
Healing rifts in between Christian and Muslim communities has been a theme throughout Pope Francis’ 1st pay a visit to to the continent, which has also taken him to Kenya and Uganda.
Nonetheless, nowhere is his get in touch with for peace and reconciliation much more pressing than in Central African Republic, where thousands have died and hundreds of thousands have been displaced in clashes that have split the country along religious lines.
The Christians and Muslims of this nation are obliged to reside collectively and love every other.
Central African Republic descended into chaos in early 2013 when mostly Muslim Seleka rebels seized power in the majority Christian nation, sparking reprisals from Christian militias.
Leaders from both sides say the hatred has been manipulated for political gain.
Tit-for-tat killings in and about the tiny PK5 enclave have claimed at least 100 lives because late September, according to Human Rights Watch.
Imam Naibi has known as PK5 “an open-air prison”, but on Monday he struck a optimistic tone.
“The relationship among our Christian brothers and sisters and ourselves is so deep that no manoeuvre in search of to undermine it will succeed,” he told the Pope.
“The Christians and Muslims of this country are obliged to reside collectively and enjoy every other.”
Each Christians and Muslims have welcomed the Pope’s check out, hoping he can spur renewed dialogue and help restore peace.
Thousands of Muslims lined the roads of PK5 to get a glimpse of the pontiff, and a group of young Muslims in cars and motorbikes ventured out of the enclave, following the Pope’s motorcade as it headed to the national stadium.
There, Pope Francis was greeted by believers who packed into its 20,000 seats or onto the soccer pitch, dancing and singing.
Right after celebrating a final Mass before the cheering crowd, the Pope took a lap around the stadium in the back of a modified Toyota pick-up prior to heading to the airport and flying back to Rome.
Subjects: religion-and-beliefs, catholic, islam, unrest-conflict-and-war, central-african-republic, holy-see-vatican-city-state