Culture At Large

A Christian voice from Ivory Coast

Josh Larsen

The unrest in Ivory Coast following that country's disputed presidential elections is a lethal mix of religion, power and politics. Incumbent Laurent Gbagbo, who campaigned as a Christian, has refused to cede power, while the international community has largely supported Muslim rival Alassane Ouattara as the rightful winner.

As Gbagbo has stood firm in the face of mounting opposition, accusations of targeted violence have been made against both sides. Alliances have been drawn along economic, religious and - especially for the people living there - practical lines. Where is God in all of this? When a previously stable African country falls into the same sort of disarray as so many of its neighbors, how can we keep faith in God's promise of a restored, harmonious earth?

For an on-the-ground perspective, we turned to our colleagues at Back To God Ministries International, which broadcasts radio programs in Ivory Coast. Christian listeners have reported that it's becoming more and more difficult to meet basic needs. Food and other staples are in short supply, while churches cannot obtain materials needed to function.  Here are the words of a Christian listener living there. (Thanks to Back to God Ministries' Nzuzi Lukombo for the translation.)

Where are you located in Ivory Coast?

"I live in Abengourou and am the pastor of my Assembly. Apart from the work of God, I run a small business that allows me to meet the needs of my family. I'm married and a father of four. Our Assembly has 17 members."

What has life been like for Christians during the election dispute?

"The city of Abengourou where we live is under control of Gbagbo’s government army. It is cited among troubled cities where rioting is common in the streets. Shops and markets close during the violent demonstrations with machetes, clubs carried by Ouattara supporters. Christians who do not support Ouattara are threatened and abused by close activists of Ouattara. They are in the majority as Muslims and very violent activists. This is a situation of uncertainty, because we do not know what may happen tomorrow."

Why has the majority of international support been given to Ouattara?

"Ivory Coast is a country that houses more than 40 percent of foreigners on its soil. This country wants its economic independence after the political independence of August 1960, but France does not want to hear about economic independence. France wants to determine the economic management of the country. It dictates to its former colony on economic matters, treating it still as its colonial property. It continues to decide who should be president and who should not. Since before the elections and through the missed coup, France now wants Ouattara to be president. The United Nations and its forces present in the country since 2002 work by any means to install Ouattara in power."

What does your immediate future look like?

"We rely on the grace of God. We pray every day that the Lord rescues us from this political-military war."

Topics: Culture At Large, Theology & The Church, Theology, News & Politics, World, North America