Why Pope Francis chooses to visit Muslim majority countries

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You might think Pope Francis enjoys travelling. Especially considering his most recent international trip was the 39 th in nearly ten years. But you´d be wrong. Because he doesn´t. Even more so now that his serious mobility problems keep him mostly confined to a wheelchair. 

So if he still insists on getting on and off airplanes, he must think travelling is important. Just like he thought it was important to travel to the Persian Gulf recently to participate in the Bahrein Forum for Dialogue, on the theme “East and West for Human Coexistence”. 

Dialogue and human coexistence have always been priorities for Pope Francis. So why go to all the trouble of travelling to Bahrein to reaffirm something he could do quite easily in the comfort of St.Peter´s Square? 

Actually, when he returned from Bahrein, he answered that question himself – in St. Peter´s Square...

The Forum for Dialogue: East and West for Human Coexistence, was an opportunity to reevaluate dialogue as “oxygen” for peace, opening minds and hearts to encounter and breaking down the walls of violence and division.

It´s worthwhile noting that no Pope had ever been to the Kingdom of Bahrein before. And, for anyone who’s counting, it´s equally interesting to note this was Pope Francis 13th trip to a country with a Muslim majority.

A few months ago, he was in Kazakhstan. Last year he visited Iraq. And in 2019, he went to Abu Dhabi, where he signed an historic document together with the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar in Egypt, considered the highest authority in Sunni Islam.

In the name of God the Creator, all forms of violence are condemned without hesitation. Because they are a serious desecration of the name of God.

“Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together”. The title of that document is itself a clue as to why Pope Francis chooses to go where he goes. He´s convinced the only way forward in our confused and conflict-ridden world is through interreligious dialogue: working together with other religions to confront global challenges. 

In Bahrein, Pope Francis invited interfaith leaders to be “exemplary models of what we preach” “If we sail alone,” he said, “we will drift”

Let us therefore come together for the sake of humanity in the name of the One who loves humanity, whose name is Peace. Let us promote concrete initiatives so that the path of the great religions be more and more proactive and constant. Let us be a conscience of peace for the world.

Engaging with the Muslim community in the world is something Pope Francis clearly thinks is important. But putting dialogue and encounter into practice requires going out to meet people where they are. Even if that means getting on and off airplanes... in a wheelchair.

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