From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Cote d'Ivoire Methodists seek end to war

From "NewsDesk" <NewsDesk@UMCOM.ORG>
Date Thu, 27 Feb 2003 16:07:34 -0600

Feb. 27, 2003	News media contact: Linda Bloom7(212)870-38037New York

NEW YORK (UMNS) - Methodist leaders from the Cote d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast) are
blaming France for contributing to the current unrest in the West African

During a Feb. 26 briefing with the United Methodist Board of Global
Ministries, the church leaders outlined their viewpoints on the crisis and
the need for U.S. involvement. The Protestant Methodist Church of Cote
d'Ivoire recently was given "mission church" status with the Board of Global

The Rev. Benjamin Boni, president of the Protestant Methodist Church,
explained that although the Sept. 18-19 uprising in Abidjan was first called
an uprising of military members seeking a better life, it later became clear
that the rebels had outside backing.

"This is clearly not a mutiny," Boni declared through a translator. "It's a
plot of the neighboring countries with France."

The Cote d'Ivoire gained its independence from France in 1960.

He believes that France would like to see the Cote d'Ivoire divided into two
parts - an eastern part, allowing the countries of Burkina Faso and Niger to
use Abidjan as a port, and a western part, allowing Guinea and Mali to use
San Pedro as a port. Some of the motivation, Boni claimed, is to improve
conditions in Africa so that citizens of those countries will be less
inclined to immigrate to France.

The Methodist delegation said it is not happy with the recent peace accord
brokered by France, which also has imposed a new prime minister on the Cote
d'Ivoire, ousting the Methodist who was serving in that position.

The church's most immediate concern is the violence that has erupted from the
conflict, along with what Boni described as the rebels' "extreme cruelty"
against civilians.

Antoinette Gadie, of the church's Women's Division, said she is particularly
in tune with the suffering of women and children. The images of mothers
fleeing with children in an attempt to escape the violence "go straight to
our hearts," she added.

Samuel Koffi, an assistant to Boni, put it bluntly: "Do we want another
Rwanda in Africa?"

He is hoping U.S. churches will become aware of the crisis in Cote d'Ivoire
and help advocate for U.S. government assistance. 

Americans in particular should relate to the threat against principles of
democracy and freedom, said Emmanuel Ackah, chairman of the Methodist Church
financial board. "The danger we are facing is that democracy is not valid in
our country," he noted. "If we had a real democracy, we would not have this

Although politicians sometimes try to use religious differences to create
tension, that is not the problem in Cote d'Ivoire, according to the Rev.
Isaac Bodje, who monitors Christian-Muslim relations for the Methodists. In
fact, Christians and Muslims have often spoken "with one voice" to denounce
injustices, he said.

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United Methodist News Service
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