Pope Francis Calls for Peace in Mozambique Ahead of Contested Presidential Elections

Women sing and dance during a Mass celebrated by Pope Francis at the Zimpeto Stadium, on the outskirts of the capital Maputo, Mozambique, on Sept. 6, 2019. Pope Francis wrapped up his visit to Mozambique on Friday by consoling HIV-infected mothers and children and denouncing the rampant corruption that has helped make the southern African nation one of the world’s poorest countries. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)

Drumming, dancing and singing erupted from the Zimpeto Stadium in the peripheries of Maputo, in the embattled African country of Mozambique, on Friday when Pope Francis reminded the more than 40,000 people present that “you have a right to peace!”

Mozambique is the first stop of the pope’s three-country trip to Africa Sept. 4-10, where he will also visit the two island nations of Madagascar and Mauritius. He called for peace and beseeched the crowd to care for the sick and the marginalized among them.

“No family, no group of neighbors, no ethnic group, much less a nation, has a future if the force that unites them, brings them together and resolves their differences is vengeance and hatred,” Francis said during his homily for the Mass at the stadium.

“An ‘equity’ born of violence is always a spiral with no escape, and its cost is extremely high,” he added. “Yet another path is possible, for it is crucial not to forget that our peoples have a right to peace. You have a right to peace.”

Francis’ remarks come just a month after Mozambique’s president, Filipe Jacinto Nyusi, signed a new treaty with the armed guerrilla forces, Renamo, led by Ossufo Momade. The treaty was the third effort for reconciliation, following a first peace accord in Rome in 1992 that was mediated by the Catholic lay movement Sant’Egidio.

Presidential and general elections in the country are expected to take place Oct. 15, with both Nyusi and Momade as candidates, raising the concern of a resurgence of the violence that has characterized politics in Mozambique since it gained its independence from Portugal in 1975.

From the moment Pope Francis set foot in the country, he has repeated appeals for peace and reconciliation, starting by bringing the two opposition leaders together during his audience with local authorities on Thursday and culminating with his address to the thousands who braved the rainy weather to attend Mass at the stadium.

During his homily, the pope invited Mozambicans to “an attitude of mercy and goodness above all toward those who, by their place in society, quickly encounter rejection and exclusion.” He lamented a world that, in his view, “kills or abandons the handicapped and the elderly, eliminates the wounded and infirm, or shows itself more concerned with the suffering of animals.”

Beyond the conflicts and devastating cyclones that have ravaged the country, Mozambique also suffers from one of the worst HIV/AIDS epidemics in the world. Almost two million Mozambicans live with HIV, more than half of them women and children, according to UNICEF data.

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Source: Religion News Service