Thousands of people gathered at the campus of University of Nairobi in Kenya Thursday to hear Pope Francis speak. Kenya's the pope's first stop on his Africa tour -- his first trip to the continent.
At his first public Mass in Africa, the pope called on the gathering to "reject everything that leads to prejudice and discrimination, for these things are not of God," the Associated Press (AP) reported. He also called on Kenyans to "resist practices which foster arrogance in men, hurt or demean women and threaten the life of the innocent unborn."
African bishops are known to be conservative in their teachings on marriage and sexuality, and strongly oppose abortion. Kenyan officials said, according to BBC, that up to 10,000 police officers will be deployed for the pope's visit, which includes Uganda as the next stop Friday.
Earlier Thursday, the pope met with Christian and Muslim leaders, and those from other faiths, in Kenya and told them that a dialogue among them was “essential” to guard against “barbarous” attacks from Islamist extremists. He also said that religion cannot be used to justify any attack, and that "all too often, young people are being radicalized in the name of religion to sow discord and fear, and to tear at the very fabric of our societies," the AP reported.
Kenya is currently facing an increased amount of violence with three recent attacks from the Somalia-based al-Shabab group, which is linked to al Qaeda. In April, the group attacked a Christian-majority college in northeastern Kenya, killing 150 people. In March, it claimed responsibility for another attack in Mandera County on the Somalia border that claimed the lives of 12 people. In September 2013, the militant group killed at least 67 people in an attack on the Westgate mall in Nairobi. Al-Shabab attacks are mainly in retaliation for Kenya’s decision to send troops to Somalia to help the government fight the militant group.
"Here, I think of the importance of our common conviction that the God whom we seek to serve is a God of peace," the pope said, according to the AP. "How important it is that we be seen as prophets of peace, peacemakers who invite others to live in peace, harmony and mutual respect," he added.