In many parts of the world, chocolate – in some form or another – is one of the favorite snacks during the Christmas holidays. You may know that Ivory Coast is the world’s largest cocoa producer, providing 43% of the world’s cocoa. Since the November presidential election fiasco, the Ivory Coast’s cocoa-bean exports have declined 16%. However, Ivory Coast’s chocolate production and exports is the least of its problems.
Instead of improving in the last month, the political unrest in Ivory Coast has worsened. The seriousness of this situation is intensifying. Violence in the streets is escalating. Major national and international entities have made many diplomatic attempts to resolving this conflict, with no success. The hopes for a diplomatic solution are becoming more and more doubtful.
Yesterday the ECOWAS, West Africa’s regional coalition, made another attempt at diplomacy. The ECOWAS arranged for the presidents of Benin, Sierra Leone, and Cape Verde to meet with incumbent president Laurent Gbagbo. They were mandated to give Gbagbo a very severe message: He must peacefully step down or face removal by force. Gbagbo’s reaction to this strong ultimatum was a stronger than ever resistance.
Gbagbo and his followers sincerely believe that Ouattara did not win the presidential election, accusing rebel forces of coercing people to vote for Ouattara. He insists, since the Ivorian Constitutional Council annulled the election, that he is still the rightful president.
How does this colossal political conflict affect Ivorian Christians? It is difficult for them to be unbiased, given that Gbagbo comes from a Christian background. This puts Christians in a very delicate dilemma, whether to accept the internationally-backed election results, or to support Gbagbo because they believe that the votes were rigged and also because of Gbagbo’s religious background. This is delicate, given the official winner of this presidential election is Alassane Ouattara, who comes from a Muslim background. What should be the Ivorian Christian position? It is extremely important that this volatile political climate not become a war of religions. Christian leaders, as well as Muslim religious leaders for that matter, can play a very important role during this kind of conflict. Their influence can make a huge impact for good. They must encourage their followers to put aside religious preferences and to consider what response would be in the Ivorian’s best interest, what solution would most likely result in least amount of blood-shed.
Most Americans cannot fully understand the historical and cultural complexities of this dilemma. American Christians must pray for a peaceful resolution. God alone knows what is best in this situation. Pray for everyone involved. Pray that Ivorians remain calm. Pray that religious leaders will beneficially use their powerful influence over the hearts and minds of Ivorians. Pray for Christian pastors in this very fragile situation. Praise International is personally involved with a great number of Ivorian evangelical pastors. Pray for these men of God. Pray for peace and mutual respect between Muslims and Christians. May God be glorified.
Here’s an idea: every time you eat chocolate during the holiday, pray for Ivory Coast, that there would be a peaceful resolution for this political crisis. And when the chocolate container is all empty, keep praying for Ivorians, with a special emphasis on our Ivorian Praise pastors.
Following a long and hard political campaign, Ivory Coast held its presidential election on November 28. After the votes were counted, presidential candidate, Alassane Ouattara, had won with a decisive victory over incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo. However, claiming that the voting had been rigged by his opponent’s party, Gbagbo refused to concede. The country’s Constitutional Council declared that the election results were invalid, declaring Gbagbo the winner.
Confusion began to reign when the United Nations, the Economic Community of West African States, the European Union and the African Union, as well as the United States, all agreed that the results of the election indicated a clear victory for Ouattara.
The people of Ivory Coast had hoped that this election would usher in a period with more stability, but the turn of events has created quite the opposite effect. At least 9 Ivoirians have already been killed. With increasing unrest and mounting tension, people are fearing the worst. Terror-stricken by the potential of war, about 3,700 Ivoirians have fled to Liberia. An average of 150 Ivoirians are leaving their country every day.
The present scenario is not new to the Ivory Coast. Memories of another civil war are too vivid in the minds of Ivoirians. In 2002, a long drawn-out putsch attempt against Gbagbo was launched by rebel groups of the north. The political insurrection dragged on into 2005 but failed. Thousands of Ivoirians were killed in the process. This putsch demonstrated a deepening split between the predominantly Muslim north and the mainly Christian south. For Ivoirians, this present presidential predicament is “déjà vu all over again.” It should be no surprise to learn that Ouattara is from north Ivory Coast and Gbagbo from the south.
Praise International is very active in the Ivory Coast. Ivoirian Pastor Joseph Oulai is Praise International Regional Director, overseeing Praise’s sponsorship of a good number of Ivoirian pastors. Praise International supports and facilitates the ministries of these Ivoirian pastors. The families of these pastors are being blessed by the Praise ministry, their needs provided for, so they have enough to eat each day, so that their children can afford to go to school.
Pray for the Ivory Coast right now, for quick resolution of this potentially disastrous situation. Pray for safety for Ivoirians and particularly for our Praise-supported pastors, so they can encourage Ivoirians who are terrorized by this political ordeal.
On January 12 Haiti was assailed by a deadly 7.0 earthquake, killing an estimated 230,000, injuring over 300,000 and rendering over a million homeless. What could be worse? A cholera epidemic. Only nine months later, still suffering from the aftermath of the devastating earthquake, with hundreds of thousands of Haitians still living in “tent cities” or on the streets, Haiti has been experiencing a ruthless cholera epidemic, the first in more than 100 years. The number of Haitians killed by this epidemic has climbed to almost 2,400. Over one hundred thousand have been infected by the virus.
Pastor Ignace Augustin and his wife, Franchette, live in Les Cayes, a seaport town in southwestern Haiti. Ignace is our Praise International regional leader in Haiti. Like the rest of Haiti, Les Cayes has been devastated by the cholera epidemic. He has been very actively involved in the relief work.
Ignace and his helpers have distributed to hundreds of Haitians crucial products that will help prevent the spread of cholera, such things as an oral serum, clorox, soap, as well as food.
In addition to the mass distribution of these products, Pastor Ignace says, “We are also working in the area of education and instructing the people how to prevent getting infected with cholera.” As Christians, they also believe that prayer is an important part of overcoming this cholera plague.
Praise International supports and facilitates the ministries of such Haitian pastors as Ignace and Franchette.
Pastor Rosny Civil and his wife, Francine are also supported by Praise International. They have two children, Syndie, 11 years old and Dor, 9. Financial contributions from people like you allow pastors like the Augustins and the Civils to serve God faithfully where He has called them and to have a tangible and lasting impact upon their communities.
If you would like to sponsor a Haitian pastor, contact Praise International. There are pastors at this moment who need your encouragement. Thank you.