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Pope Francis on risky peace mission to Africa

November 25, 2015 - AFRICA

Pope Francis journeys to Kenya, Uganda and Central African Republic, a trip either heroic or reckless for a pontiff who scorns the bullet-proof Popemobile. He will spend two days in each country, visiting only the capitals on a trip that is fraught with security concerns.

Porous borders and religious hatred in the region mean that none of his stops can be considered safe. The Vatican said Pope Francis will meet slum dwellers and refugees and call for dialogue between Christians and Muslims when he visits.

The Central African Republic's characteristic political strife has devolved into religious warfare, and a recent peace deal is too frail to reassure the pope's advisers. Fighting between the republic's Christian Anti-Balaka militants and Islamist militias known as the Selaka, has laid waste to much of the country and has shattered the decades-long peaceful coexistence of Christians and Muslims.

Pope Francis' visit will make Uganda the first African country to host three different reigning popes. Paul VI and John Paul II visited Uganda without harm, which will be taken as a hopeful sign for the safety of Francis.

He has brushed off fears for his personal security, according to Britain's Telegraph newspaper, saying he chooses not to travel in a bullet-proof "sardine can" because he wants to engage with ordinary people. He added that "at [his] age, he doesn't have much to lose."

There were particular fears for his safety during his recent trips to Holy Land, which involved public appearances in Jordan, Jerusalem and Bethlehem, and also to Sarajevo.

Why the threat of genocide hangs over the Central African Republic (New Statesman (Nov 2013)

Uganda to Set Record With Third Papal Visit (Africa Channel 21 Jan 2015)

Pope Francis's advisers fear for his security in Philippines (Telegraph 15 Jan 2015)

Pope Francis To Make His First Papal Visit To Africa (AFK Insider 23 Jan 2015)

Pope Francis: 'at my age, I've got nothing to lose' (Telegraph 18 Apr 2015)

Date written/update: 2015-10-19