Wednesday, December 4, 2002

IVORY COAST: SERIOUS SITUATION

WEA Religious Liberty Prayer List - No. 198 - Wed 04 Dec 2002

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IVORY COAST: SERIOUS SITUATION
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By Elizabeth Kendal

The fragile peace in Ivory Coast is under great stress. Whilst the conflict is essentially political, it divides the nation along ethnic and religious lines, with Christians generally supporting the government (with a Christian President) and Muslims generally supporting the rebels. So the conflict, which started as a failed political coup, has thus polarised the nation and has the potential to degenerate further into a horrific religious war of national and even regional proportions.

The rebels' demands are a stumbling block to the peace talks. The rebels (the Patriotic Movement of Ivory Coast [MPCI]) want 'a new political order' and are insisting on President Gbagbo's resignation. On top of this, government forces reported on 27 November that two new groups of rebels, assisted by Liberian militants, had broken the truce by advancing, attacking military positions and capturing the key western towns of Danane and Man. Government forces responded and re-took the towns after two days of heavy fighting. The new rebel groups, the Movement for Justice and Peace and the Ivorian Popular Movement for the Great West, want to merge with the main rebel group, the MPCI, which presently controls the predominantly Muslim north of Ivory Coast. This would greatly strengthen the rebel position.

Ivory Coast has secular government and full religious freedom. Church growth over the past decade has been phenomenal, particularly amongst evangelicals.

To relieve financial stress, Ivory Coast, which is 31.8% Christian and 38.6% Muslim (Operation World figures), joined the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) in June 2001, to access the limitless funds of the Islamic Development Bank. Non-Muslim African nations (including many that are majority Christian) are being similarly tempted, and many have already succumbed. The Saudis and Libya's Colonel Gadhafi are the main drivers of this strategy of quiet absorption, which some observers believe is aimed at creating a united Islamic Africa. Militant and hardline Islamist groups demand more than absorption. They demand a Muslim government and ultimately Sharia (Islamic) law. There is no doubt these groups have become increasingly active in recent years, and those who desire a united Islamic Africa are keen to fund and employ their services. This is a spiritual battle.

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT:

* the Church in Ivory Coast will be focused on Jesus and committed
to HIS ways, in spite of fear, anxiety and anger over the
conflict.

* Christians stranded in rebel territory or in frontline regions
will be kept safe; and for provision for those who have been
displaced and made homeless through a flight south as the nation
has polarised.

* Christian witness will be bold, gracious and profoundly effective
at this time of heightened religious awareness. Isaiah 55:10,11

* the conflict will not cut Ivory Coast's Muslims off from a
continuing witness to the gospel and that Satan's plan to crush
mission will not succeed.

* God will govern the Peace Talks, giving wisdom to President
Laurent Gbagbo, and a commitment to peace to the rebels.

"And everyone will know that the Lord does not need weapons to
rescue his people. It is his battle, not ours." David to Goliath - 1
Samuel 17:47