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Pope Francis ends Africa trip with mosque visit

Healing rifts between Christian and Muslim communities has been a theme throughout Francis’ first visit to the continent

Published: Updated:

Pope Francis ventured into one of the world's most dangerous neighbourhoods on Monday to beg Christians and Muslims to end a spiral of hate, vendetta and bloodshed that has killed thousands over the past three years.

Under intense security, Francis passed through a no-man's zone to enter PK5, a district where most Muslims who have not fled the capital of the Central African Republic have now sought refuge.

The neighbourhood has been cut off from the rest of the capital Bangui for the past two months by a ring of so-called anti-balaka Christian militias, who block supplies from entering and Muslims from leaving.

The pontiff’s two-day visit to the former French colony is taking place amid a surge in violence and has meant unprecedented security measures.

CAR’s United Nations peacekeeping mission brought in additional forces and has deployed over 3,000 soldiers in an attempt to secure the city during the pope’s visit. The government is also contributing around 500 police and gendarmes. French troops based in Bangui are also on alert.

Both the Christian majority and minority Muslims have welcomed the pope’s visit, hoping he can spur renewed dialogue and help restore peace.

“We’re living in an open-air prison,” Ahmadou Tidjane Moussa Naibi, the imam at the mosque Francis visited, said earlier this week.

“We’re deprived of everything. We don’t have access to the hospital. We don’t have access to education. We don’t even have access to our cemeteries,” he said.