From 28 November to 4 December 2011 an ecumenical delegation visited the Ivory Coast to meet with the churches and representatives of civil society in the country on the initiative of four international church organizations:
- The World Council of Churches (WCC), represented by Revd Simon Dossou, African WCC President, Dr Nigussu Legesse, of the Africa desk of the WCC in Geneva, Father François Tounkara, of Conakry, Guinea, and Mme Jeannette Aneyé, Central Committee member,
- The All Africa Conference of Churches (AACC), represented by Revd Richard Murigandé, from Rwanda,
- CEVAA (Community of Churches in Mission), represented by Revd Étienne Roulet, from Switzerland, and
- The Protestant Federation of France, represented by Revd Daniel Thévenet, from France.
The delegation had successive meetings with leaders of the United Methodist Church of the Ivory Coast, the Evangelical Federation of the Ivory Coast, the Head of the Ministry of the Interior, the National Human Rights Commission, the Governor of the District of Abidjan, the leaders of the Work and Missions of the Baptist Churches, the Catholic Archbishop of Abidjan, and the Truth and Reconciliation Dialogue Commission.
The following message was given to all those whom we met:
1. The ecumenical community has closely followed the crisis which has shaken the Ivory Coast and has not ceased to pray for the country.
2. We have come on a visit to show solidarity with all those who have suffered, to whatever side they belong.
3. We have come to see, listen and understand our brothers and sisters in the faith, as well as the main leaders in public and political life.
4. We have come to offer support in the seeking of solutions that will allow the Ivory Coast to arrive at reconciliation and rebuild the nation.
We have heard from those whom we met some strong statements that can be summarized as follows:
1. The Ivory Coast has always been a hospitable country, welcoming many from neighbouring countries. What happens in the Ivory Coast has repercussions throughout the sub-region.
2. The problem leading to the outbreaks of violence is neither ethnic nor religious in origin, but originates at political and economic levels.
3. The traditional values of engaging in dialogue to reach understanding have been eroded despite the peaceful tradition of the Ivory Coast.
4. Many people, on all sides, have suffered violence, but the people of the Ivory Coast are highly resilient. None the less, there is a real need for truth, forgiveness, and reconciliation, in order to mend the damaged social fabric.
5. Some political movements have made use of the Christian churches and have attempted to manipulate them in order to add a religious dimension to the conflict.
6. The Christian churches have thus been confused with some extremist religious movements and have become victims because of that identification.
7. The strength of the churches (Protestant, Evangelical and Catholic) lies in their ability to enrich one another out of their diversity, and to use it to serve the cause of unity.
We thus recommend:
1. That politicians acknowledge to one another, in a spirit of humility and truth, the wrongs and errors they have committed, and ask for forgiveness in order to take forward the process of national reconciliation.
2. That, to that end, they have recourse to the traditional values of Ivory Coast wisdom of engaging in dialogue and listening to one another.
3. That political authorities do not ignore the historical and instituted churches, but have confidence in their ability, through their extended country-wide networks, to participate in reconciliation and rebuilding national life; and that extremist religious movements be better identified and monitored.
4. That the churches do not allow themselves to be manipulated by political movements, but play to the full their role in proclaiming the Word of God in a totally independent way.
5. That, to that end, the churches do not cast themselves in the role of victims, but should participate in a resolute and politically unbiased way in public life.
6. That the churches should come together in a credible and responsible organization in order to speak with a united voice, in cooperation with other religious traditions.
As they end their mission, the members of the ecumenical delegation wish to thank all whom they have met for their attentive listening and their openness, and, in particular, the United Methodist Church of the Ivory Coast for welcoming and kindly accompanying the delegation.
Abidjan, 3 December 2011 On behalf of the delegation
Rev. Simon Kossi Dossou
Translated from the French, Language Service, World Council of Churches