Ivory Coast (MNN) — Christians are now a major target in violence which is teetering Ivory Coast on the edge of civil war.
When the post-election violence began in November, believers were almost immediately at risk. Laurent Gbagbo refused to step down from his post as president when candidate Alassane Ouattara was voted in as president, despite international recognition of Ouattara as the country's new president.
Now Christians are in danger.
"In the city of Abidjan, there's a call by Islamic clerics against the Christians," confirms Carl Moeller with Open Doors, USA. "The fact of the matter is, in this part of the world, politics and religion are very difficult to separate."
Where does religion fit in? Gbagbo calls himself a Christian, and Ouattara calls himself a Muslim. Many Muslims associate believers with Gbagbo whether they actually support him or not. Christians' prayers for peace in Ivory Coast are seen as further evidence of Gbagbo loyalty.
As a result, Christians have been targeted directly. "Our coworkers on the ground say that several churches have been already burned, and many Christians have been beaten up. And there are actually–although we don't have firm numbers on this according to our coworker there–Christians who've been killed in these attacks," says Moeller.
The U.N. reports that over 430 people have died as a direct result of the hostilities.
Thousands of believers have been made homeless, and due to the lack of hospitals, many of them are dying as well. 40,000 people are gathered at churches in and around Abidjan. Christians undoubtedly make up some of the hundreds of thousands of refugees since violence began.
Pray for strength for our brothers and sisters in Ivory Coast right now. Pray for the safety of Open Doors workers as well, and that ministry would continue. Pray that believers would still manage to be a light for Christ in the middle of misunderstandings and malevolence.
Open Doors has works to build the church in Ivory Coast. Look for more updates on the country on their Web site.