Zacharia Wanakacha Samita, a professor at Kenyatta University in Nairobi, Kenya, noted the Pope’s six-day visit to Central African Republic, Kenya and Uganda and its importance to the African people.
“The Pope’s visit was significant to Africa, especially to our leaders and the Church,” said Wanakacha Samita.
“It’s time we need to come together and reflect on the things that affect us Africans. We have just realized that we have the capacity to deal with our own issues like corruption, terrorism and tribalism. Religion has power to unite Africans … What our leaders can do to honour the Pope’s visit is to deal with these issues.”
The Pope’s trip, his first to Africa as pontiff, underscores the importance of the continent to the Church. Africa has the fastest-
growing population of Catholics — and Muslims — in the world, according to Pew Research Centre, with both Islam and Christianity expected to have more than twice as many adherents in the region by 2050 as they did in 2010.
Pope Francis wrapped up his trip in the wartorn Central Africa Republic Nov. 30 by warning that religious conflicts are spawning civil war, terrorism and suffering throughout the continent.
“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. God is peace, ‘salaam,’ ” the Pope said, using the Arabic word for peace.
Francis spoke about the violence between Christians and Muslims that erupted when rebels ousted the Central African Republic’s president three years ago — and continues to divide the country. Around 6,000 have died in the fighting, and thousands have been displaced.
Francis’ remarks dovetailed with themes he sounded at the outset of his trip in Kenya.
“Tribalism. It can destroy. It can mean having your hands hidden behind your back and having a stone in each hand to throw to others,” the Pope told a group of Catholic youths in Nairobi on Nov. 27. “Kenya is a young and vibrant nation. Cohesion, integration and
tolerance towards other people must be a primary goal.”
Love, he preached, was the antidote to the hatreds that tribalism and sectarianism can unleash.
“You can ask yourself: Is this path to destruction or is it an opportunity to overcome this challenge for me, my family and as a member of this country,” asked Pope Francis. “We don’t live in Heaven, we live on Earth and Earth is full of difficulties. You have the capacity to choose which path you want to follow, the path of opportunity or of division.”
Kenyans embraced the Pope’s message.
Risper Anyango, 40, a mother of three who sells roasted maize in Nairobi’s sprawling Kangemi slum, where the Pope toured on his final day in Kenya, was awestruck by the pontiff’s presence.
“I have lived here in poverty for more than 20 years,” said Anyango. “The Kenya government is not willing to help the poor because of rampant corruption. I pray that our leaders hear the message of the Pope.”
In Uganda, the second African country he visited, the Pope toured a shrine Nov. 28 that memorializes the 19th-century Christian martyrs who were burned alive for their faith. The martyrs were fearless in bringing Christ to others, even at the cost of their own lives, said Francis.
“The Christian community in Uganda grew strong through the martyrs,” he told thousands gathered at the shrine.