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ICC Note: Pope Francis will be visiting the Central African Republic along with Kenya and Uganda next month. Local religious leaders in CAR hope the pope’s visit brings forth a time of dialogue and unity among religious groups as the civil war has taken a major toll on the nation. Three years ago, a Muslim-led rebellion plunged the country into civil war pitting neighbor against neighbor, faith against faith. While it is likely religion has been used as a scapegoat for the violence, the fact remains religion has become a focal point in the war. Local Imams are requesting the pope call for disarmament as the U.N. led effort has fallen on deaf ears. Recently CAR has experienced Christian persecution as a Christian community was set ablaze in riots and murders after a Muslim cab driver was found dead on the streets in early October, 2015.

10/26/2015 Central African Republic (Catholic Herald) – Religious leaders in Central Africa have predicted the Pope’s upcoming visit could help bring peace to their country, three years after a Muslim-led rebellion plunged the country into civil war.

Pope Francis will visit the capital, Bangui, on November 29 – 30, after visiting Kenya and Uganda.

Leaders have shared their hopes that the trip will be seen as an “occasion to return to the path of peace” for groups like Boko Haram.

Included in the Pope’s itinerary is a meeting with Muslims in the city’s central Koudoukou mosque.

“This will be a key event for all Central Africans, whatever their religious affiliations,” said Imam Omar Kobine Layama, president of the Islamic Council.

“We’re hoping the Holy Father will bring a clear message about the unity of believers, interfaith dialogue, human rights and peace, which could really liberate us and help rebuild social links the various armed groups have destroyed.”

In an interview with Catholic News Service last week (October 22nd) the imam said Muslim leaders had asked Pope Francis to call on rebel groups to give up their weapons after U.N.-sponsored disarmament efforts had failed “to get the message across.”

“The Holy Father has already done a great deal to help all Central Africans, whether they’re Catholics, Muslims, Protestants or animists,” he said.

“This will be, first and foremost, an occasion for prayer. But it will also allow us to present our Muslim community to the world, highlighting its anxieties and fears.”

Meanwhile, the secretary-general of the Central African Republic bishops’ conference said Muslim representatives had been consulted about plans for the two-day visit and how the Pope’s presence could best serve to ease the crisis.

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