In light of recent terror attacks in Kenya and abroad, Pope Francis began the second day of his trip to Africa stressing the need for interreligious leaders to work together for peace.
In a morning meeting on Nov. 26 with interreligious and ecumenical leaders at the apostolic nunciature in Nairobi, Kenya, Pope Francis said while ecumenical relationships can be demanding, they are not optional.
“…ecumenical and interreligious dialogue is not a luxury. It is not something extra or optional, but essential, something which our world, wounded by conflict and division, increasingly needs,” the Pope said.
Not only is it essential for peace, he added, but interreligious dialogue can be a rich source of enlightenment and becomes an “important service to the common good.”
His comments come just two weeks after six coordinated attacks in Paris, perpetrated by ISIS, left at least 128 people dead.
The Pope’s address also falls seven months after terrorists killed 147 students at Garissa University College in Garissa, Kenya, and four months after gunmen killed 14 quarry workers in Mandera. In 2013, 67 people were killed when terrorists attacked shoppers at the Westgate Mall in Nairobi.Each of these attacks were carried out by al-Shabaab, an al-Qaeda affiliate operating out of the neighboring country of Somalia.
“I know that the barbarous attacks on Westgate Mall, Garissa University College and Mandera are fresh in your minds,” he said. “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.”
“How important it is that we be seen as prophets of peace, peacemakers who invite others to live in peace, harmony and mutual respect!”
The Holy Father also stressed the importance of never committing violence in the name of God, and prayed for the conversion of heart of all those who perpetrated violence in the name of religion.
He closed his address recalling the 50th anniversary of the end of the Second Vatican Council, saying that he hoped the Church continued her commitment to ecumenical dialogue and friendship.
“As we look to the future, let us pray that all men and women will see themselves as brothers and sisters, peacefully united in and through our differences. Let us pray for peace!”
This story is according to Pope Francis’ prepared remarks to interreligious leaders.