6:00 P.M. EST December 20, 2010 | ABIDJAN, Côte d’Ivoire (UMNS)
Ivorians turn up in huge numbers to cast their votes in the first round of the presidential election on Oct. 31. Photo by UN Photo/Basile Zoma.
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Amid post-election violence, the United Methodist Church of Cȏte d’Ivoire is calling for prayer and trying to reinforce its ministries to the people.
The outcome of the West African nation’s Nov. 28 presidential election is in dispute, leading to renewed tension in a country that has been trying to regain stability following a civil war earlier in this decade. Both the current president, Laurent Gbagbo, and his opponent, Alassane Ouattara, are claiming victory.
United Methodist leaders are urging peace and calm, and the unrest has driven many people to turn to the church.
The situation has been different in the government-controlled southern part of Cȏte d’Ivoire compared to the rebel strongholds in the north. A member of Angré United Methodist Church in the eastern section of Abidjan, in the south, noticed that Sunday attendance actually increased from an average of 800 to 1,500 people after the election.
“Many of the newcomers lived in the vicinity and they don’t want to travel long distances to attend their ordinary service,” he said. “In addition, many people felt the need to come and pray, particularly in situations like these.”
United Methodist Bishop Benjamin Boni of Côte d’Ivoire offers thanksgiving and prayer in this November 2008 file photograph by Mike DuBose.
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About 600 kilometers north, in rebel-held Ferkessedougou, the average church service attendance decreased drastically for two Sundays, according
to a source. The reason: many civil servants returned to their hometowns to vote and could not leave because of the unrest and lack of public transportation.
Treating the injured
Methodist schools were closed Nov. 28-Dec. 8 because parents were afraid to send their children to school in the uncertain political situation. Paul Ohanson, general manager of the Methodist schools, reported that the winter break would be reduced to make up time lost and students would not be penalized.
“Our students should not suffer from this situation,” he said. “We need to make any possible sacrifice to stick to our value of academic excellence.”
Dabou Methodist Hospital, about 59 kilometers west of Abidjan, treated some of those injured in clashes over the weekend of Dec. 4-5, following the announcement of the results of the second round of presidential elections. Six people were reported killed and several others wounded by bullets and machetes.
Hundreds of journalists from the international and national press cover the first round of the presidential election in Cote d’Ivoire on Oct. 31, 2010. Photo by UN Photo/Basile Zoma.
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“We treated 23 injured people and hosted two deaths at our morgue,” confirmed Alfred Degny, the hospital’s director. “Since the hospital does not have an emergency service, we had to over-exploit the capabilities of the operating room where we treated all the major cases besides our traditional patients.”
Call to prayer
The United Methodist Church of Côte d’Ivoire is continuing to pray for a peaceful resolution of the situation throughout the country. The church has an estimated 700,000 members and serves a wider community of about 1 million in Côte d’Ivoire.
Last week, the church called for three days of fasting. People gathered between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. in local churches to pray for the country. At Plateau United Methodist Church in downtown Abidjan, the Rev. Michel Lobo, conference administrative assistant secretary and senior pastor, noticed an “incredible attendance” between working hours.
Speaking to the press after a meeting of religious leaders for peace and reconciliation, United Methodist Bishop Benjamin Boni recognized that the “greatest battles are won on knees,” referring to the need for Christians to kneel on the ground and ask God to help.
“We don’t have any human enemies. Our enemies are Satan and the demons,” Boni said. “We must, therefore, reach out to each other in our neighborhoods and show them love and peace.”
*Broune is a United Methodist communicator based in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire.
News media contact: Linda Bloom (646) 369-3759 email@example.com.