Bangui, Nov 30 (IANS) Pope Francis has called on the Central African Republic to take inspiration from the national motto of “unity, dignity and work” to overcome the religious conflict that has claimed the lives of thousands of people over the past two years.
The pontiff — capping off his three-nation Africa visit — met interim President Catherine Samba-Panza and members of the diplomatic corps on Sunday, Efe news agency reported.
The Pope congratulated the officials for the efforts they have made to lead the country to this stage.
The CAR will hold a constitutional referendum on December 13 and presidential elections are scheduled to take place two weeks later, with the two events bringing the transition to an end and opening the way for the country’s reconstruction.
The national motto expresses “the aspirations of all Central Africans”, the Pope said.
It provided a “sure compass for the authorities to guide the country’s destiny” and represented “more a work in progress than a finished programme”, he added.
“You should live and build keeping in mind the wonderful diversity of the world, avoiding the temptation to fear others, those who are not familiar, those who do not belong to our ethnic group,” the pontiff said.
The CAR has been plagued by instability since the Seleka rebel militia alliance, the majority of whose members are Muslim, overthrew President Francois Bozize in 2013, setting off a conflict with Christian and animist militias.
The Pope’s visit is expected to ease tensions ahead of the December 27 presidential election.