Accessibility links

Pope Talks to Africa About Poverty, Climate, Greed

It is the first time this Pope has been to Africa.

Three countries, 19 speeches, and big issues to address.

These issues include poverty, the environment, and finding peace between Muslims and Christians.

The African continent plays an important role for the Catholic Church. PEW Research says there are more than 170 million Catholics in sub-Saharan Africa. Both Catholics and Muslims are projected to increase “dramatically” over the next 35 years in Africa, according to Pew.

With stops in Kenya, Uganda and the Central African Republic, human rights supporters hope he will push for political rights, religious tolerance and respect for minorities.

Large, adoring crowds have turned out to see the popular pope.

Pope Francis put poverty front and center in Kenya. His visited the slum of Kangemi, to show his support of the poor.

He spoke at the St. Joseph the Worker Catholic church. Speaking through a translator, Pope Francis said he understands the difficulty the poor deal with every day.

“I am here,” he said, “because I want you to know that your joys and hopes, your troubles and your sorrow, are not indifferent to me. I realize the difficulties which you experience daily. How can I not denounce the injustices which you suffer?”

People cheered when he said that keeping water from people is a great injustice. The pope said it is a serious problem when people do not have access to infrastructure or basic services. Electricity, schools, roads and hospitals are human rights, he said. Even studios and workshops for artists and workers.

He blamed “a selfish minority” for holding power and wealth that makes others poor.

Later, the crowd cheered as he arrived at a rally for young people at a sports stadium. He stood and waved from his partly open, partly protected, white vehicle, called the “pope-mobile.” Pope Francis told tens of thousands of young Africans to resist corruption.

He said corruption is like sugar: One can develop a taste for it, but in the end, it is destructive.

The head of the Catholic Church also told the crowd to give up tribalism. Loyalty to tribes are sometimes stronger than political ties in Africa. It can lead to violence, like female genital mutilation (FGM).

While in Kenya, the pope spoke about the environment. At the United Nations Environment Program in Nairobi on Thursday, he called for immediate action to stop climate change.

He said: “In this international context, we are confronted with a choice which cannot be ignored: either to improve or to destroy the environment.”

His comments come just days before a U.N. meeting on climate change in Paris. He said it would be catastrophic if nothing is done to stop climate change.

“In a few days, an important meeting on climate change will be held in Paris," he said. "It would be sad, and I dare say even catastrophic, were particular interests to prevail over the common good.”

Also while in Kenya, the pope spoke to a group of Christian and Muslim leaders. He said they must talk about guarding against radical behavior, and acts of violence in the name of God.

Pope Francis said talk between the two religions is “essential.” He said too often, young people are “radicalized in the name of religion” to spread “discord and fear.”

The second stop of the pope’s African tour is Uganda, where his plane touched down Friday. Arriving in Entebbe, he praised the country for its “outstanding” response in welcoming refugees.

The U.N. says Uganda hosts more than a half-million refugees. Most of them have fled from war and conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan.

Pope Francis said Uganda has shown outstanding concern for refugees and helped them “rebuild their lives in security, with a sense of dignity.”

He said how we deal with refugees “is a test of our humanity.” And, he said, the “world looks to Africa as the continent of hope.”

His comments come as Europe and the United States struggle with placing refugees from Syria and other countries at war. This, after the terrorist attacks in Paris by Muslim extremists.

The final stop on his tour is the Central African Republic on Sunday, where he will again hope to address issues between Muslims and Christians.

Many hope that the pope’s visit can bring peace to a country that has seen violence between Muslims and Christians. Some question if it is safe for him to travel there.

Since 2013 the country has been in chaos. A rebel takeover led to bloody violence between Muslims and Christians.

The pope is scheduled to visit a mosque in Bangui’s PK5 neighborhood. Many of the city’s mosques were destroyed in violence that started at the end of 2013. It continues to simmer even now.

PK5 is the last place in the capital where Muslims can live. The conflict killed thousands and displaced nearly a million more. Most of the country’s Muslims fled to other countries.

The pope is then scheduled to go home to Rome Monday.

I'm Anne Ball.

Anne Ball reported on this story with information from VOA News correspondents. Kathleen Struck was the editor.

We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments section and post on our Facebook page.


Words in This Story

tolerance – n. willingness to accept feelings, habits, iedeas, or beliefs different from your own

adoring -- adj. to love, and or admire, very much

slum -- n. part of a city where poor people live in bad conditions

indifferent -- adj. not interested in something

injustice -- n. unfair treatment -- the rights of a person or a group of people are ignored

infrastructure -- n. the basic equipment and structures, like roads, needed for a country, and area or organization to function properly

destructive -- adj. causing a very large amount of damage or harm

female genital mutilation -- n. the cutting, or partial or total removal, of the external female genitalia for religious, cultural, or other non-medical reasons

catastrophic -- adj. disastrous

radicalized -- v. to cause someone to be more radical in religion or politics

chaos -- n. complete confusion and disorder

takeover -- n. when a person, people or company takes complete control of something

Show comments