ENTEBBE, Uganda (AFP) - Pope Francis on Friday (Nov 27) hailed Uganda for its "outstanding" response in welcoming refugees as he began a two-day visit to this east African nation.
"Here in East Africa, Uganda has shown outstanding concern for welcoming refugees, enabling them to rebuild their lives in security and with a sense of dignity," he said, shortly after flying in to the central town of Entebbe on the shores of Lake Victoria, on the second leg of three-nation Africa tour.
Figures published by the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) show Uganda hosts over half a million people, most of whom have fled conflict and violence in neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan.
"How we deal with them is a test of our humanity, our respect for human dignity and above all our solidarity with our brothers and sisters in need," the 78-year-old pontiff said.
His remarks come as Europe struggles to handle an influx of nearly three-quarters of a million people in its worst migrant crisis since World War II which has sewn deep divisions in the continent.
Although most are refugees seeking shelter from the war in Syria, many more have fled violence and poverty in Africa to seek a better life in Europe.
"Although my visit is brief, I hope to encourage the many quiet efforts being made to care for the poor, the sick, and those in any kind of trouble. It is in these small signs that we see the true soul of a people," the Argentine pope said.
"My visit is also meant to draw attention to Africa as a whole, its promise, its hopes, its struggles and its achievements. The world looks to Africa as the continent of hope."