Benedict XVI: Recognise others as fellow men and women

God gave man “wings’, faith and reason, to enable him not to “yield to the law of the strongest” but to recognise others as brothers and sisters who have the same rights. Such is the basis of dialogue, forgiveness and reconciliation, whose roots are found in Christianity, and of which Benedict XVI is the bearer in this, his first trip to Africa.

The Holy Father focused on these themes today, especially after arriving in Angola, a country slowly recovering from a civil war that lasted from 1975 to 2002 and cost 500,000 dead, as well as countless maimed, orphans and refugees.

On his departure from Cameroon this morning he touched upon an issue, albeit indirectly, that is a source of conflict and violence, and not only in Africa: Christian-Muslim relations.

In his farewell address the Pontiff mentioned his stay in Cameroon, stressing the importance of his meetings with leaders of the local Muslim community.

“As we continue on our journey towards greater mutual understanding,” he said, “I pray that we will also grow in respect and esteem for one another, and strengthen our resolve to work together to proclaim the God-given dignity of the human person, a message that an increasingly secularized world needs to hear.”

On his arrival at Luanda’s “4 de Fevereiro’ Airport in post-war Angola, where he was welcomed by Angolan President José Eduardo dos Santos, and where Catholics represent half of the population, the Holy Father mentioned John Paul II’s second visit to the country in 1992, who “pointed out the way towards God, inviting all people of good will to listen to their own rightly formed consciences and to build a society of justice, of peace and of solidarity, in mutual charity and forgiveness.”

“For my part,” he added, let me “remind you that I come from a country where peace and fraternity are dear to the hearts of all its people, in particular those, like myself, who have known war and division between family members from the same nation as a result of inhuman and destructive ideologies, which, under the false appearance of dreams and illusions, caused the yoke of oppression to weigh down upon the people. You can therefore understand how keenly aware I am of dialogue as a way of overcoming every form of conflict and tension and making every nation—including your own—into a house of peace and fraternity. With this in view, you must take from your spiritual and cultural heritage the best values that Angola possesses, and go out to meet one another fearlessly, agreeing to share personal resources, both spiritual and material, for the good of all.”

Benedict XVI also went on to remind Angolans that their country’s wealth must be used to “build peace and understanding between peoples, based upon loyalty and equality that can promote for Africa the peaceful future in solidarity that everyone longs for and to which everyone is entitled. To this end, I ask you: do not yield to the law of the strongest! God has enabled human beings to fly, over and above their natural tendencies, on the wings of reason and faith. If you let these wings bear you aloft, you will easily recognize your neighbour as a brother or sister, born with the same fundamental human rights.”

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