Pope Francis told Christian and Muslim leaders in Kenya on Thursday that they have little choice but to engage in dialogue to guard against the "barbarous" Islamist extremist attacks that have struck Kenya.
Starting his first full day in the Kenyan capital, Francis celebrated an open-air Mass for tens of thousands of rain-drenched people who sang, danced and ululated as he arrived.
Some people had been at the University of Nairobi since 3 a.m., braving heavy showers that turned the grounds into thick puddles of mud. Others waited in lines stretching 1.8 miles to get close to the venue, but the turnout appeared far less than the 1.4 million that Kenyan authorities had predicted after declaring Thursday a national holiday.
In his homily, Francis appealed for traditional family values, calling for Kenyans to "resist practices which foster arrogance in men, hurt or demean women and threaten the life of the innocent unborn."
The African church is among the most conservative in the world, and African bishops have been at the forefront in insisting that traditional church teachings on marriage and sexuality, and its opposition to abortion, be strongly emphasized.
Francis obliged, but also stressed issues of his own concern: He called for Kenyans to shape a more just society that looks out for the poor and to "reject everything that leads to prejudice and discrimination, for these things are not of God."
Earlier Thursday, Francis met with about 25 representatives of Kenya's faith groups: Anglicans, other Protestants, Muslims, Sikhs, Hindus and Jews.
The pontiff warned them that "young people are being radicalized in the name of religion to sow discord and fear."
Inter-religious dialogue "is not a luxury. It is not something extra or optional, but essential," he added, stressing that God's name "must never be used to justify hatred and violence."
He referred to Somalia's al Shabaab Islamists' 2013 attack on Nairobi's Westgate shopping mall and this year's assault on Garissa University. Hundreds of people have been killed in the past two years or so, with Christians sometimes singled out by gunmen.