Muslims in Malawi have congratulated Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Argentina on his election as Pope Francis of the Roman Catholic Church.
In an interview with Malawi Muslims Official Website, one of the renowned Muslim leaders in the country Sheikh Amani Matiya said:
“We congratulate Pope Francis on his election as Pope Francis of the Roman Catholic Church. We hope and pray that the Pope uses his influence to develop peace and harmony in the world. His comments on things to do with Islam should be of unity rather than division.”
Sheikh Matiya said Pope Francis should emulate from what Pope Benedict XVI did to reconcile with Muslims despite making a ‘big blunder’ in his speech in 2006.
In 2006, Benedict spoke at the University of Regensburg in Germany and quoted a 14th-century Byzantine emperor who said Islam’s Prophet Muhammad had only brought “evil and inhuman” things to the world, and that Islam was “spread by the sword.”
Those remarks angered many Muslims in the world including Malawi.
But since then, Benedict made several trips to Islamic countries to repair some of the damage, and Sheikh Matiya gives Benedict high marks for his efforts to re-engage Muslims.
“Pope Benedict XVI made a significant effort to reconcile with Muslims. This is what we want the new Pope to do,” said Matiya.
Another renowned leader, Sheikh Muhammad Uthman also congratulated the Pope and said Muslims especially in Malawi should borrow a leaf from the Catholics.
“I congratulate the Catholics for choosing their leader in fair and peaceful manner. This is very important because when choosing religious positions, you don’t need to have many people or do campaign inorder to lobby supporters to vote for you. Only few people can meet and choose a leader this is what we call Shurah. So, Muslims especially in Malawi should to learn something from how our counterparts conduct their affairs,” he said.
However, Sheikh Uthman advised the new Pope to follow the footsteps of John Paul II.
“This pope [Pope Benedict XVI ] had not really been a bridge-builder that is why we need Pope Francis to be someone who will try to heal wounds and build bridges. John Paul II was very intelligent and used to respect all denominations – so, I urge him to do the same,” he said.