Coinciding with a terrorism crisis in Europe, the head of the Roman Catholic Church is making the rounds in Africa. On the second day of his trip, he focused on Kenyans' own experiences with radicalization and bloodshed.
Pope Francis told a group of Christian, Muslim and traditional African religious leaders in Kenya on Thursday that they must act as "prophets of peace" to overcome interreligious violence throughout the world.
Multi-faith Kenya, where the pope is on the second day of a six-day African tour, has been wracked by terror attacks from al-Shabab militants in Somalia, something the pope specifically addressed with religious leaders.
"All too often, young people are being radicalized in the name of religion to sow discord and fear, and to tear at the very fabric of our societies," the pope said.
"I think of the importance of our common conviction that the God whom we seek to serve is a God of peace," Francis said at the Vatican embassy in Nairobi.
"Ecumenical and interreligious dialogue is not a luxury. It is not something extra or optional, but essential," the pontiff said.
About one-third of Kenya's 45 million people are Catholic, while 10 percent are Muslim.
The head of Supreme Council of Kenya Muslims, Abdulghafur El-Busaidy, echoed the pope's belief and called for all to overcome religious differences.
"As people of one God and of this world we must stand up and in unison, clasp hands together in all the things that are essential for our collective progress," he said.
Addressing divisions between Muslims and Christians is a major theme of the Pope's first Africa visit. On Friday he will head to Uganda, which has been hit by Islamist terror attacks.
Uganda and the Central African Republic also face violence from the terrorist group the Lord's Resistance Army, a Christian warlord cult best known for abductions, using child soldiers and mutilating victims.
cw/kms (AP, dpa, Reuters)