Pope Francis is embarking on his first visit to Africa. In the three countries on his itinerary, he is expected to address the challenge of harmonizing relations between Christians and Muslims.
Pope Francis is beginning a tour of three African countries, Kenya, Uganda and the Central African Repubublic. DW spoke to Hassan Ole Nado, Deputy Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Kenya Muslims (SUPKEM) about the significance of the visit by the leader of the world’s Catholics.
DW: What are your hopes of this visit by Pope Francis?
Hassan Ole Nado: We hope his visit will really cement the inter-faith relationship that already exists in this country. The Supreme Council of Kenya Muslims is part of the faith community as members of the inter-religious council of Kenya. I don’t think there is actually something new to advise the Pope. He will, of course, address concerns that are facing the world today, from conflict to terrorism, and also the lack of opportunities for the growing youthful population around the world, the needs of children and also women in development, particularly in Third World countries. We think that, as the leader of the world Catholic church, he will make his contribution to this country.
Do you think this visit by the pontiff will help to bring down the tension that has been simmering in Kenya for a long time between Christians and Muslims?
I think it adds value because his presence and also his recognition of the existence of different faith in this country, and as a result the invitation of various religious leaders, is by itself evidence that the pope really wants to promote the inter-faith dialogue.
As Deputy Secretary General of SUPKEM do you have something that you would particularly like the Pope to speak about while here in Kenya?
There is nothing as important as peaceful co-existence among the Kenyan communities, between neighbours in Africa and the world over, and I think this particular pope is known for being someone who really advocates for peaceful co-existence among various communities of faith and cultural background. This is something good for us as a country particularly coming now when we are facing a lot of risks. These risks are faced by the country not because we subscribe to one faith or another but because we are people, a civilized nation, people who are struggling to make ends meet and also to contribute to the development of the world.
Do you think members of the Muslim community will join Christians perhaps to see the pope for the first time?
Human curiosity cannot be measured by the faith they subscribe to. So, like any other human being, any other Kenyan will also want to see who this person is, so I think they will join the rest of the Kenyan people to welcome the pope.
The pope has prayed in a mosque in Jerusalem and also in Turkey. Do you think he should continue doing that wherever he goes, for example in the Central African Republic where there is conflict between Muslims and Christians?
Not necessarily, but it is a good sign of appreciating other people’s faith, particularly in Central Africa, where for the first time we really have a problem in terms of inter-faith conflict which is actually threatening to tear that country apart. I think it is a good gesture for the pope to pray in a mosque in the Central African Republic in terms of sending the message that we are indeed worshipping one living God so that this conflict that is turning more religious can be somehow neutralized by the goodwill of leaders like him.