Pope works for peace in Africa

Pope Francis put peace and reconciliation in the Central African Republic at the centre of international attention by his visit here, Nov 29-30.

Dec 04, 2015

By Gerard O’ Connell
Pope Francis put peace and reconciliation in the Central African Republic at the centre of international attention by his visit here, Nov 29-30, during which he sought to create the conditions for this by, among other things, opening the Jubilee Year of Mercy in Bangui’s cathedral and appealing to those engaged in the two-year old conflict to “lay down the instruments of death.”

He did other things too that, in the view of many Central Africans, have contributed to the dynamics for peace. First, he met leaders of the country’s Evangelical Churches when he visited their Theological Faculty in Bangui and there, he gave support and encouragement to their efforts, in collaboration with the Catholic Church and with an Imam from the city’s Muslim community, to work together for reconciliation and peace. In this context, it should be recalled that 63 percent of the population of the CAR are Christian, 15 percent are Muslim.

Significantly, the vangelical hurch leaders and the mam were also present in the cathedral when Francis opened the Holy Door and the Jubilee Year of Mercy and celebrated Mass. And when it came to the moment for the kiss of peace, Francis went and exchanged it with them.

Francis visited the Central Mosque of the Muslim community Nov  and met five mans there as a sign of solidarity and friendship with them. It was a message to all the citizens of the CAR that Christians and Muslims can live together in peace.

His push for peace and reconciliation did not stop with these actions; he went further, by speaking to thousands of young people at a prayer vigil outside the cathedral after Mass. This event was particularly significant, given that the average age of the . million citizens of this country is just over 19 years. At that meeting, Francis urged them to engage in “resistance” to the evils in society, to never hate anyone, to not flee the country, to pardon those who have done them wrong, to try to love one’s enemies, to fight for peace each day and, above all else, to pray a lot to God “who is greater than all else” and who, in fact, “has the last word.”

In addition to all this, Francis visited one of the forty refugee camps in this city where some 3,700 people live, mostly women and children. (There are almost 500,000 internally displaced persons in this country, while some 400,000 have migrated to neighboring states).

“To all those who make unjust use of the weapons of this world, I make this appeal: lay down these  instruments of death! Arm yourselves instead with righteousness, with love and mercy, the authentic  guarantors of peace.”

Pope Francis concluded his visit to Bagui on Nov 30 by celebrating Mass in the Barthelemy Boganda Sports Stadium and then took the plane back to Rome after an extraordinarly successful visit to the heart of Africa.--America

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