Pope urges Christian-Muslim peace in Africa

Thu Mar 19, 2009 7:23am EDT
 
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By Philip Pullella

YAOUNDE (Reuters) - Pope Benedict on Thursday urged Christians and Muslims in Africa to shun inter-religious violence, but criticism of a comment he made about AIDS showed no sign of abating.

The pope began his third day in Cameroon by meeting with 22 leaders of the country's Muslim community before starting saying an open-air mass at Yaounde's stadium for a throbbing crowd of tens of thousands.

In his address to the Muslims at the Vatican's embassy here, the pope said both religions should "reject all forms of violence and totalitarianism."

He added: "May the enthusiastic cooperation of Muslims, Catholics and other Christians in Cameroon be a beacon to other African nations of the enormous potential of an interreligious commitment to peace, justice and the common good."

Clashes between Muslim and Christian gangs sparked by a disputed election killed hundreds of people in the Nigerian city Jos last November.

In January this year Sudanese authorities threw a United States-based aid group out of its Darfur region after officials found Arabic-language bibles in its office.

The pope has been using his meetings with Muslims to try to patch up relations which nosedived in 2006 after he made a speech in Regensburg, Germany, that was taken by Muslims to imply that Islam was violent and irrational. That speech led to worldwide protests by Muslims.

In Thursday's address to Muslims, he said "religion and reason mutually reinforce each other," another apparent attempt to show that he did not believe that Islam was irrational, as his 2006 speech had been interpreted.   Continued...

 
<p>Pope Benedict XVI waves at the crowd from his Popemobile as he arrives to lead a mass at Amadou Ahidjo stadium in Yaounde, March 19, 2009. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi</p>