Resist ‘fear of others,’ pope says in strife-torn Central African Republic

The African country is has a high crime rate fueled in part by easy access to weapons

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Pope Francis on Sunday called for unity in the strife-torn Central African Republic, urging people not to give in to the “fear of others” in a country plagued by sectarian violence.

In an address at the presidential palace shortly after landing in the capital Bangui, the 78-year-old pontiff called for unity and to avoid “the temptation of fear of others, of the unfamiliar, of what is not part of our ethnic group, our political views or our religious confession.”

Central African Republic descended into bloodshed more than two years ago after longtime leader Francois Bozize, a Christian, was ousted by fighters in the mainly Muslim Seleka force, triggering the worst crisis since independence in 1960.

Since then, the former French colony has been gripped by violence between the Seleka fighters and Christian militias known as “anti-balaka” or anti-machete.

Though the violence has subsided since last year, there is still a high crime rate fueled in part by easy access to weapons.

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