Pope Francis said on Monday that Christians and Muslims were “brothers”, urging them to reject hatred and violence while visiting a mosque in the Central African Republic’s capital which has been ravaged by sectarian conflict, AFP reports.
On the last leg of a three-nation tour of Africa, the leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholic visited a flashpoint Muslim neighbourhood in Bangui on what was the most dangerous part of his 24-hour visit.
Thousands of people gathered at the roadside, cheering as his popemobile drove down the red dirt roads. As his vehicle passed, many waving Vatican flags and dressed in long traditional robes, ran down the road after it.
“Christians and Muslims are brothers and sisters,” he said after meeting Muslim leaders at the Koudoukou mosque in the PK5 district, the last Muslim enclave in Bangui where tensions remain high after months of violence.
“Together, we 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,” he said.
The pope later flew out of Bangui at the end of his first trip to Africa that has also taken him to Kenya and Uganda.
Francis’ message of peace and reconciliation appeared to have made a powerful impression, with a group of Muslim rebels turning up to join tens of thousands watching a papal mass at the capital’s Barthelemy Boganda Stadium.