Pope Benedict began the last full day of activities on the Cameroon leg of his visit to Africa by meeting with representatives of the Muslim community. He noted that Christianity and Islam share some of the same beliefs and called on the leaders to help foster "genuine religion" which involves reason and religious beliefs working in harmony.
The meeting with representatives of the Muslim community began at 9:00 on Thursday morning with a few words from the Islamic Cultural Association of Cameroon’s President Amadou Bell.
The Holy Father then addressed the group discussing how religion can make an essential contribution to understanding culture and the world, and to the peaceful coexistence of peoples.
With 20 percent of its population being Muslim, Pope Benedict pointed out that "Cameroon is home to thousands of Christians and Muslims, who often live, work and worship in the same neighborhood."
Continuing with a theme that has been prominent in discussions between Catholic and Muslims, Pope Benedict encouraged the Muslim leaders to engage in a dialogue between religion and human reason.
"I believe," he said, that a "particularly urgent task of religion today is to unveil the vast potential of human reason, which is itself God's gift and which is elevated by revelation and faith. Belief in the one God, far from stunting our capacity to understand ourselves and the world, broadens it."
The Pope also provided an example of how faith and reason can give a deeper insight into the truth when they work in harmony.
"Although [God's] infinite glory can never be directly grasped by our finite minds in this life, we nonetheless catch glimpses of it in the beauty that surrounds us. When men and women allow the magnificent order of the world and the splendor of human dignity to illumine their minds, they discover that what is 'reasonable' extends far beyond what mathematics can calculate, logic can deduce and scientific experimentation can demonstrate; it includes the goodness and innate attractiveness of upright and ethical living made known to us in the very language of creation.
"This insight," he added, "prompts us to seek all that is right and just, to step outside the restricted sphere of our own self-interest and act for the good of others.
"Genuine religion," the Pope stated, "widens the horizon of human understanding and stands at the base of any authentically human culture. It rejects all forms of violence and totalitarianism: not only on principles of faith, but also of right reason. Indeed, religion and reason mutually reinforce one another since religion is purified and structured by reason, and reason's full potential is unleashed by revelation and faith."
The Holy Father finished his brief remarks by calling on Muslims to "imbue society with the values that emerge from this perspective and elevate human culture, as we work together to build a civilization of love.
"May the enthusiastic co-operation of Muslims, Catholics and other Christians in Cameroon be a beacon to other African nations of the enormous potential of an inter-religious commitment to peace, justice and the common good!"