Wednesday, April 7, 2004

IVORY COAST: SITUATION GROWS CRITICAL

WEA Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin - No. 266 - Wed 07 Apr 2004

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IVORY COAST: SITUATION GROWS CRITICAL
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By Elizabeth Kendal

Ivory Coast (IC), a major producer of cocoa, coffee and tropical hardwoods, was once the most prosperous nation in all West Africa. A virtual open-door policy allowed people from all over West Africa to work in Ivory Coast. However, after four decades of uncontrolled immigration, half the total population now are Muslim immigrants. The rebels, who launched the September 2002 failed coup and have held the northern half of the country ever since, aim to change the constitution so that all immigrants can be naturalised. Ivory Coast, with the local population currently 38% Muslim and 31% Christian and enjoying full religious freedom, would then become a Muslim majority nation able to elect an Islamic government. Dr Outtara with his RDR Party has played the race and religion card for political gain, and in doing so has polarised IC along ethnic and religious lines.

IC president, Laurent Gbagbo, a Christian, has worked with his Prime Minister, Seydou Diarra, a northern Muslim, to implement the peace accords. The rebels however appear not to want peace. They want to control all of IC and to replace the president. The rebels walked away from the government of national unity in September 2003 and are refusing to disarm. They are now provoking confrontation with IC security forces by defying a ban on all political demonstrations. This could escalate dangerously. Rebel leader Guillaume Soro recently told a rally of 5000 rebel supporters in Bouake, central IC, that they would soon be able to pay rebel soldiers a monthly salary. He did not say where these funds would be sourced.

One of IC's biggest problems has been the quiet radicalisation of its Muslim population, particularly youths. Funded by oil profits, the Saudi Arabian drive to spread Wahhabi Islamist ideology globally has impacted IC through Saudi-sponsored Islamic schools (educating in Arabic) and scholarships for Muslim students to the Islamic universities in Cairo and Medina. This orthodox Islamist ideology has made Sharia law imperative for many Muslims, which is a global phenomenon.

During a two-year preaching ministry in the early 1900s, the dynamic Liberian evangelist William Wade Harris led possibly 100,000 West Africans to Christ, including many thousands of Ivorians. In the 1990s, the number of evangelicals in IC almost doubled. IC has been a model and haven of religious freedom, and a safe and prosperous launching place for mission into West and North Africa. If IC falls to Islamic domination it will be not only a national tragedy, but a tragedy for all West Africa and a serious threat to all African religious fault-line nations (Ghana, Togo, Benin, Nigeria and Sudan). There is much at stake.

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY:

* that through the troubles in IC, the churches will draw closer
together and the believers closer to God, and for their anxiety
and suffering to produce endurance, character, hope (Rom 5:3,4)
and a renewed, strengthened relationship with their Saviour.

* for President Gbagbo: for prayerfulness, for spiritual wisdom and
understanding (Colossians 1:9-14), for spiritual growth and
deepening dependence upon God.

* for God to end the rebellion, securing justice, preserving
religious freedom, safeguarding mission, and making way for
salvation to spring up and righteousness to grow (Isaiah 45:8).

'O righteous God, who searches minds and hearts, bring an end to
the violence of the wicked and make the righteous secure.' Psalm 7:9