He acknowledged that the meeting was “is a vivid sign of the desire we share with all people of good will — in Cameroon, throughout Africa and across the globe — to seek opportunities to exchange ideas about how religion makes an essential contribution to our understanding of culture and the world, and to the peaceful coexistence of all the members of the human family.”
“Together,” he affirmed, “they bear witness to the fundamental values of family, social responsibility, obedience to God’s law and loving concern for the sick and suffering.”
He added, “By patterning their lives on these virtues and teaching them to the young, Christians and Muslims not only show how they foster the full development of the human person, but also how they forge bonds of solidarity with one’s neighbors and advance the common good.”
In a closed-door meeting with 22 representatives of Cameroon’s Muslim community, Benedict said religion is the basis of human civilization, according to The Associated Press.
“Genuine religion … stands at the base of any authentically human culture,” he said. “It rejects all forms of violence and totalitarianism: not only on principles of faith but also of right reason.”
He then urged Catholic and Muslims to work together “to build a civilization of love.”
Muslims make up about 22 percent of Cameroon’s population, while Roman Catholics comprise 27 percent of the Western African country’s people. Protestants account for 18 percent and animists make up about 27 percent of the country’s population.
Benedict lifted up Cameroon as a model of how Christians and Muslims can co-exist peacefully, praising it as “a beacon to other African nations.”
To the northwest, neighboring Nigeria has suffered from sectarian violence between Muslims and Christians. The country is nearly split evenly between a Muslim north and a Christian south with members of one religious group living as minorities where the other religion is dominant.
The pope expressed hope that Cameroon can show the “enormous potential of an inter-religious commitment to peace, justice and the common good” to other countries.
During his message to the crowd of 40,000 at a stadium in the capital of Yaounde, Benedict also offered comfort to child soldiers saying, “God loves you, he has not forgotten you.”
Earlier this week, Benedict told reporters aboard the papal plane heading to Cameron that distributing condoms is not the answer to fighting against HIV and AIDS. Instead, the Vatican encourages sexual abstinence to fight against the disease.
His comment, the first time he has explicitly spoken about condom use, has drawn criticism from France, Germany and the United Nations.
Benedict will fly to Angola on Friday for the second and final destination of his Africa tour.
Now that he no longer draws spiritual succor from Jeremiah Wright—the America-hating, racist demagogue who served as his pastor and spiritual mentor for twenty years—Barack Obama has turned elsewhere for guidance in the task of carrying out his political duties while remaining true to his religious values.