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.