Monday, October 21, 2002

IVORY COAST: CEASEFIRE, BUT CHRISTIANS STILL IN PERIL

WEA Religious Liberty Prayer List - No. 192 - Tue 21 Oct 2002

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IVORY COAST: CEASEFIRE, BUT CHRISTIANS STILL IN PERIL
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By Elizabeth Kendal

Last week's RLP 191 (15 Oct) gave some background and details of the situation in Ivory Coast (Cote d'Ivoire). In summary: the rebels (Muslim soldiers) and supporters of the Muslim RDR political party are demanding a change of government. President Gbagbo, who was democratically elected in a process fully supported by all parties, is a Christian actively promoting national reconciliation. The situation last week was that four weeks after the failed coup, some 150,000 people had fled rebel-held Bouake in central Ivory Coast. More than 300 had died and the violent conflict was tearing the nation apart along religious and ethnic lines.

On Thursday 17 October, something occurred that was unimaginable a week earlier. A ceasefire agreement, brokered by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), was signed. France has agreed to monitor the ceasefire along with a West African surveillance force. President Gbagbo accepted the ceasefire to minimise loss of life. We can praise God for this respite from offensive conflict.

Rebel leaders are reportedly having a hard time convincing their troops to observe the ceasefire and President Gbagbo has kept the army on high alert. Typically, the rebel Sergeant Zacharias Kone in Vavoua, near the cocoa capital of Daloa, has rejected the deal outright. Many rebel fighters would prefer to march on Abidjan, the capital in the south. They are well armed with weaponry stockpiled ready for this assault. We must pray for the ceasefire to hold.

It is extremely perilous for Christians trapped in rebel-held areas, because they support the government of President Gbagbo. An Ivorian Christian reports: "All these areas (majority Christian towns in rebel-held territory) are presently empty of their inhabitants, who have fled through the bush to avoid killings, rapes and all other form of violence from the rebels, and are trying to join the small villages, 40, 50 or even 100 kilometres south of Bouake, in order to save their life. Their houses, left empty behind, are daily 'visited' by the rebels and their belongings are taken by the rebels and their supporters." (Mainstream media reports confirm all this - EK.) "Families are scattered, many pregnant women gave life in the bush and had to abandon their new born babies to save their lives, some died without help."

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY FOR:

* the ceasefire to hold, with the rebels surrendering their arms,
and for constructive dialogue to commence in peace. At this
stage, a sustained peace would require a miracle - we have a God
who does "awesome miracles" for his people. Ps 66:5

* Christians who have been displaced, separated from family,
bereaved and traumatised through the conflict, that they will
experience comfort, strength and healing from the Lord.

* Christians trapped in or trying to flee from rebel-held areas,
that God will be their guide and their shield, frustrating the
plans of the wicked.

* great wisdom for President Gbagbo and his government as they
negotiate for peace and national reconciliation; may they seek
God's will and obey it in faith.

"For by his great power, he (God) rules forever. He watches every
movement of the nations; let no rebel rise in defiance." Ps 66:7