Update: Cote d'Ivoire City of Abidjan Under Fire
UPDATE: French and U.N. forces bombarded targets in
Bishop Benjamin Boni, leader of The United Methodist Church in
“Pray for the people,” the assistant said.
The military barracks, presidential palace and presidential residence are some of the targets under bombardment. Forces supporting Gbagbo’s rival, Alassane Ouattara, control most of the city and the rest of the country. Ouattara has been recognized by the international community as the elected leader of the country after the presidential election.
As fighting intensified in
Bishop Benjamin Boni met March 31 with Muslim and Celestial Christian (a traditional African religion) leaders and with the
“We have been working together for a long time,” Boni said in an April 1 telephone interview. A primary concern for the group has been ensuring that
Gunfire could be heard outside the house where Boni, his wife and some of his staff were staying. He expressed faith in God and hope for his country but also concern about the violence and the impact of an embargo that has blocked medical supplies from reaching
“God is wonderful,” he said, “but many, many people have died.”
Church Staff Find Havens
Soldiers supporting the U.N.-recognized president, Alassane Ouattara, have taken control of most of
The pro-Ouattara Republican Forces of
The presidential residence is in Cocody, where The United Methodist Church’s regional offices, radio station and bishop’s residence are also located.
“The Voice of Hope” radio station continued to broadcast music automatically today. The five-person team that had been barricaded inside the station left late on March 31 as the fighting around Cocody intensified. The team was reported to be safe, as was the station’s director.
The United Methodist pastors in
While Boni and his group were safe at a private residence, the gunfire outside was so loud at times that it interrupted the interview. An assistant to the bishop said it appeared that soldiers were firing into the air but no fighting was under way. The soldiers may have been chasing looters, said the assistant, who asked not to be named.
The small group with Boni included his wife, N'Gbesso Berthe Boni, and two conference leaders: the Rev. Isaac Bodje, secretary of the conference; and the Rev. Josue Affi, superintendent of the Abidjan North District and pastor of
Boni voiced concern about the international embargo on his country, which is preventing medicine from reaching those in need. “In hospitals, many, many people are dying,” he said.
The church’s hospital in nearby Dabou has seen a 15 percent increase in people seeking help, in part because some of
The United Methodist Committee on Relief has provided two grants of $20,000 each to the Côte d’Ivoire Conference. One grant is funding relief for displaced people, and the other is being used to feed kindergarten-age children through a program that will last beyond the crisis.
“UMCOR continues to pray for the people of
Four churches in different parts of the city – Angré, Yopougon, Marcory and Port-Bouet – have been aiding people displaced by the fighting. Since early March, the four churches have helped more than 750 people. The churches have provided food and basic necessities and have helped the people get settled into safer areas, finding homes to host them.
No churches are known to have been damaged by this week’s violence. The church in the Abobo district, where the fighting in
The United Methodist schools in the city were closed this week but are expected to reopen next week. However, the church’s girls’ school at Anyama is being used by the pro-Ouattara forces.
Business and marketplaces in
Hope for the future
A church representative has been in regular touch with Ouattara’s people and said they know about the church’s ministries and what it is doing to alleviate poverty. One of Ouattara’s cabinet ministers and his newly named ambassador to the United States have visited with church leaders in the Texas Conference as a result of the partnership between the Texas and Côte d’Ivoire conferences, according to the bishop’s assistant.
Bishop Janice Riggle Huie, who leads the Texas Annual (regional) Conference, sent a letter to the Council of Bishops on March 31 regarding the situation in
“I invite the people of The United Methodist Church to join with the people of the Texas Annual Conference as we pray for our sister conference in
“In Jeremiah, God promises the people a future with hope,” she said. “The people of
Boni gave thanks for the support from around the church.
“I would like to express my gratitude to all of our brothers and sisters who are still praying for us, for the country,” he said. “May God express his will on this situation. We are full of hope.”
*Tanton is executive director of content for United Methodist Communications.