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UMC Leaders Meet with Côte d'Ivoirian Officials, Discuss Peace Building and Healing

by Melissa Hinnen

Cote d'Ivoire Foreign Minister Daniel Kablan Duncan
Cote d'Ivoire Foreign Minister Daniel Kablan Duncan
Image by: Melissa Hinnen
Source: GBGM Mission News
Cote d'Ivoire Officials and United Methodist Delegation
Cote d'Ivoire Officials and United Methodist Delegation
Image by: Melissa Hinnen
Source: GBGM Mission News

A delegation from The United Methodist Church met with the Foreign Minister and other leaders of Côte d'Ivoire to explore areas of common interest as the West African country recovers from a post-electoral crisis earlier this year.

Bishop Weaver of New England led the delegation and later said he was encouraged by the meeting and emphasized the role of the church as a global organization. "Partnering with governments and nongovernmental organizations, we often work with communities recovering from crisis. Working through the leadership of The United Methodist Church in Côte d'Ivoire, and the different entities of the connection, we anticipate that this is the beginning of a strong partnership with this administration to build peace in the country." The bishop is a director of the General Board of Global Ministries, which arranged the meeting.

Minister Duncan thanked the delegation and explained the priorities of the new government: "We are thankful for your support and for the opportunity to partner with The United Methodist Church. Our priority areas of concern right now include peace and security building, reunification of children, and reconciliation of Côte d'Ivoire."

Nearly 500,000 people were displaced during the post-election crisis last year. Thousands of refugees remain in Liberia and Ghana, and concrete steps are being taken to reunite families and resettle displaced people in their home country. The new administration launched a diverse, eleven-member Truth, Reconciliation and Dialogue Commission to build peace among Ivorians who were divided during the political turmoil.

Minister Duncan said that poverty has had a profound effect on the people in Côte d'Ivoire in recent years. While he anticipates an increased GDP beginning in 2012, according to him, the war is responsible for a 30-50% increase in poverty, particularly because people lost a half-year of work. He is interested in partnering with The United Methodist Church, particularly in social sectors such as education, health, and water to empower communities and build sustainable development.

Thomas Kemper, general secretary of the General Board of Global Ministries, said he is pleased with the administration's vision for peace-building and elimination of poverty, concerns that reflect the values of The United Methodist Church. "President Outtara's model of religious collaboration presents new opportunities for dialogue and action," he said. Côte d'Ivoire has large populations of both Christians and Muslims; President Outtara is Muslim.

Kemper also noted the role of Côte d'Ivoire in the global work of the mission organization. "We have Ivorians serving as Nationals in Mission in their own country, and Ivorians serving as missionaries in places such as Tunisia. Bishop Benjamin Boni of Côte d'Ivoire provides strong mission leadership in West Africa. Under the bishop's guidance, we have provided support and consultancy from the US to strengthen the church's schools and increase their efficiency. I look forward to exploring new ways that our network of personnel can connect with different faith groups to find common ground and help the country come back in great ways."

The United Methodist Church in Côte d'Ivoire

Over the years, the Church has facilitated mutual high-level delegation visits to the US and to Côte d'Ivoire. In June, church leaders attended the inauguration of President Alassane Ouattara. The Reverend Isaac Bodje, Secretary of the Côte d'Ivoire Annual Conference, explained the rich history of the church in his country. "The United Methodist Church has a strong presence in Africa and more than half a million members in Côte d'Ivoire. We respect and honor President Outtara's commitment to the separation of church and state and will continue to respond in appropriate ways that empower communities to heal from trauma while creating sustainable systems of development."

The United Methodist delegation highlighted examples of successful partnerships in places recovering from crisis. In Haiti, the church is working with communities to provide clean water, strengthen educational opportunities, train farmers, and develop jobs. In Sudan and South Sudan, long-term development programs include peace-building, school construction and teacher training, and shelters for internally displaced people.

The Rev. Cynthia Fierro Harvey, who leads the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR), said: "We are committed to reaching out to the most vulnerable populations and empowering those who are experiencing poverty. With the Texas Conference we have worked on malaria control and currently are working with United Methodist-supported Dabou Hospital to develop a health board and facilitate volunteer work teams."

In the recent crisis in Côte d'Ivoire, the United Methodist radio station provided a source of information and encouragement. United Methodist churches opened their doors to shelter people who were displaced, and Dabou Hospital provided medical services.

Looking Ahead

Bishop Devadhar of the Greater New Jersey Episcopal Area closed the meeting, praying for wisdom and guidance for the new leadership. He prayed that The United Methodist Church would be an instrument of healing and reconciliation in the country.

Minister Duncan said he and President Ouattara would welcome a United Methodist delegation to visit Côte d'Ivoire later this year. He looks forward to facilitating a meeting with other officials and establishing a strategy for meeting community needs in the social sector and establishing ecumenical collaboration.

Bishop Weaver responded: "With upcoming elections in places like Zimbabwe and Liberia, and the potential for crises in those countries, President Ouattara's commitment to democracy and development is a model of hope and determination for the region. We welcome the opportunity to be part of the peace-building process."

See Also...
Topic: Children Conflict Education Family Global connections Health Poverty Refugees Violence War Water Focus on Ministry with the Poor Focus on Global Health
Geographic Region: Cote d´Ivoire
Source: GBGM Mission News

Date posted: Sep 22, 2011