Ivory Coast (MNN) — Yesterday morning, President Outtara's government forces crushed the last of the resistance loyal to former president Gbagbo.
After five months of intense fighting that cost the lives of 3,000 people and caused a quarter of the city of Abidjan to flee, Ivoirians may be able to breathe easier at the news that the conflict is "officially" over.
But The Seed Company's Dave DeGraaf says this isn't the end. "We don't really think that this is going to bring an end to the violence that's been happening there."
It's not a pessimistic view so much as a historic one. DeGraaf, The Seed Company's Field Coordinator for West Africa, has watched hostility ramp up for the last 13 years in Ivory Coast. Enmity from a coup in 1999, an attempted coup and a subsequent civil war in 2002 has simmered for the last decade.
The most recent burst of violence came as a result of disputed elections in November, 2010. Outtara barely eked out a win, but Gbagbo and his followers were convinced the election was rigged. When Gbagbo refused to step down from his post, animosity exploded into extreme brutality.
Many bystanders suffered, including translators with The Seed Company. About a million refugees fled to Liberia, and countless more moved north to escape the fighting. Several Seed Company workers were forced to pick up their families, leave their homes and flee to the African bush, where they lived for weeks on end. "A number of the teams we work with have been directly threatened," says DeGraaf.
One translator came just moments away from a meeting with death. Just after Gbagbo was captured on April 11, the translator was forced from his home by militants who accused him of supporting the former president. Ignoring his persistent cries that he was only a Bible translator, the men stripped him and prepared to execute him. The translator was saved by the timely entrance of his neighbors, who vouched that the man was indeed who he said he was.
Another team felt unsafe and contacted The Seed Company to move them. They moved just months before the Red Cross came to the city to find 800 dead bodies.
Some Christians chose sides during the fighting and joined in, but many were able to be the gold of a dirt mine. "By and large, it's the church in the forefront of wanting to bring reconciliation to the country, and to give shelter to those who are most affected by the violence on either side."
The situation has already opened doors for the truth of the Gospel, making it all the more crucial that The Seed Company complete the translation of the Scriptures into native Ivoirian languages.
DeGraaf says especially after this kind of suffering, the message of Christ's reconciliation of the world to God is most effective in the written Word. "It's these aspects of the Christian life that have a behavioral and emotional impact–not just a head knowledge kind of thing–that come through most clearly through Scriptures translated into somebody's mother tongue."
Translation projects were disrupted during recent violence, and DeGraaf says, "The project will probably take longer than we foresaw." You can help with a few specific projects, including the Kru NT Cluster, which was most affected, the Nyarafolo and the Djimini.
In the meantime, prayer is vital for the recovery of this West African nation. DeGraaf asks that we pray for the continued disarmament of the country, since thousands of weapons were brought in over the course of the violence. Also pray for the millions of refugees, many of whom are now jobless and are returning to their homes to find them destroyed.
Pray for healing to start in the church, which experienced devastating losses on both sides of the conflict. Pray for their reconciliation to be a light to all around them.