BANGUI, Central African Republic — The highlight of Pope Francis’ journey in Africa was, on Nov. 30, his morning visit to a mosque in Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic, where Christian and Muslim militias have been fighting each other over nearly the past three years. His presence in the besieged, dangerous PK5 district was meant to show that the bounds of brotherhood between communities remain possible despite all the bloodshed.
“Christians and Muslims are brothers and sisters. We must therefore consider ourselves and conduct ourselves as such,” he clearly stated in his speech inside the mosque. “Christians, Muslims and members of the traditional religions have lived together in peace for many years,” he said, calling to mind, “the many acts of solidarity which Christians and Muslims have shown with regard to their fellow citizens of other religious confessions.” Tidiani Moussa Naibi, the imam of the mosque welcoming the pope, expressed the same attitude and commitment in his welcoming address.
Imam on board the pope mobile
After the speeches, Francis asked the imam to show him where the mihrab was, as it indicates in a mosque the direction of Mecca, towards which Muslims pray. Both of them stood in front of it and prayed there, side by side in silence. The pope later explained to the press he had also invited the imam on board his pope mobile to tour together.
The day just before the visit, in the cathedral of Bangui, the head of the Catholic Church made another symbolic gesture of sympathy towards the Muslim community. He stepped down from the altar during mass to give peace to another imam, Oumar Kobine Layama, who was standing in the front row. This imam, along with the Catholic archbishop of Bangui, Mgr. Dieudonné Nzapalainga, and an Evangelical pastor, Nicolas Guerekoyame-Gbangou, all stood together to try to downplay the hatred between communities and bring them back together.
They’re called the “three saints of Bangui.” The first purpose of Francis’ risky visit in war-torn Central Africa was to foster their work. He did this not just for the sake of the country but as a signal to the world at a… read more at huffingtonpost.com