Wednesday, October 16, 2002

IVORY COAST: CHRISTIANS FACING TERROR

WEA Religious Liberty Prayer List - No. 191 - Wed 16 Oct 2002

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IVORY COAST: CHRISTIANS FACING TERROR
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By Elizabeth Kendal

The conflict in Ivory Coast (Cote d'Ivoire) is being portrayed in the media as strife over 'xenophobia', 'justice' and even democracy. However, there is far more to this conflict than initially meets the eye. It is strongly religious (and spiritual) in nature, threatening to cripple mission in West Africa and the Church in Cote d'Ivoire.

On 5 August, mission in South Asia was seriously threatened when over 100 predominantly missionaries' children at the Murree Christian School came under attack by heavily armed Islamist militants (who later blew themselves up). Satan's plan failed and not one child was hurt. Only six weeks later, in mid/late September, mission in West Africa was seriously threatened when some 200 predominantly missionaries' children's lives were put at risk by an outbreak of civil conflict right at the International Christian Academy in Bouake. Once again, the children were all delivered unharmed.

The situation for the Church in Cote d'Ivoire is serious and deteriorating daily. Cote d'Ivoire, a centre for mission, sits atop an ethnic and religious fault-line. Muslims live predominantly in the north and Christians predominantly in the south. Muslims make up 27 percent of the Ivorian population, but in recent years the massive influx of immigrants from neighbouring Islamic nations, such as Mali and Burkina Faso, has boosted the Muslim population to over 50 percent.

For many years, prosperous Cote d'Ivoire has maintained a very hospitable policy regarding immigrants. However, the enormous number of immigrants has created economic and land stress. This is not 'xenophobia', but simply tension created by there not being enough land and jobs to go around, and the fact that wealth is rapidly leaving the country as immigrant workers send it home. It has also created religious tensions as the Muslims want a Muslim government. The conflict is most severe in central Cote d'Ivoire where Muslim immigrants now vastly outnumber the Christian and animist indigenous people of the region. The soldiers who started this conflict are northern Muslims who had been expelled from the army for alleged disloyalty. They attempted a coup and are seeking a change of government. They want their strong-man, Alassane Ouattara, a Muslim, in power.

Christians in rebel-held areas are at severe risk as they generally are loyal to President Gbagbo, a Christian. The rebel soldiers have been arming local Muslims and sending them out to murder 'loyalists' (Christians). Many have already died, some burned to death. Around 150,000 have fled Bouake. In rebel-held areas, villages that are predominantly Christian are being held captive by the rebels and food and water cannot get in. There is much terror and very little assistance.

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY FOR:

* God to restore peace to Cote d'Ivoire, for the sake of his Church
and mission in West Africa, 'that Satan may not outsmart us. For
we are very familiar with his evil schemes'. (2 Cor 2:11 NLT)

* all Christians trapped and in immediate serious risk in central
Cote d'Ivoire; may the Lord be their Mighty One, 'like a wide
river of protection that no enemy can cross'. (Isaiah 33:21 NLT).
May he 'frustrate the plans of the wicked'. (Ps 146:9 NLT)