Pope Francis has arrived in the capital of the Central African Republic, kicking off the last part of his Africa tour. He plans to visit not only Christians displaced by the ongoing violence, but also Muslims.
Pope Francis arrived in the Central African Republic capital of Bangui on Sunday, as a years-long conflict between Christians and Muslims continues to spark bloodshed and massive displacement. The country will be his last stop on a six-day tour of Africa that began with a visit to Kenya and continued with a trip to Uganda.
Shortly before his plane touched down in Bangui, the pope took to Twitter to impart a message to the country.
Upon arriving, he called on the country to begin a "new chapter" in its tormented history.
"It is my fervent wish that the various national consultations to be held in coming weeks will enable the country to embark serenely on a new chapter of its history," he said.
Mired in conflict
The capital has seen heavy violence over the last couple of months, fueling speculation that the pontiff would cancel his visit. In preparation for his arrival, security forces patrolled the streets leading to the airport where his plane was expected to land.
The pontiff is expected to first visit a community for displaced Christians, followed then by a visit to a similar community for uprooted Muslims.
The Central African Republic has been mired in conflict since Muslim rebels overthrew Christian president Francois Bozize in 2013. The ensuing violence between Christians and Muslims has divided the country and led to the displacement of some one million people.
Changing 'the negative into the positive'
Since arriving on the continent, Pope Francis has urged Africans to overcome the challenges plaguing their societies through faith and responsible leadership.
In Kenya, the pontiff visited the slums of Nairobi and lashed out at the injustice faced by the roughly 100,000 people living in extreme poverty there.
"I am here because I want you to know that I am not indifferent to your joys and hopes, your troubles and your sorrows," he told a packed church on Friday.
In Uganda, the pope chided the country's leaders, insisting that they use the country's bountiful resources in a responsible manner. He also visited a shrine dedicated to Christians murdered by the king in the late 19th century.
blc/jlw (AFP, AP, Reuters)