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Bishops in Ivory Coast Pay Tribute to Muslim Leader Known for Interreligious Dialogue

Cheick Aïma Boikary Fofana, President of the Superior Council of Imams, Mosques and Islamic Affairs (COSIM).

Following the death of the President of the Higher Council of Imams, Mosques and Islamic Affairs (COSIM) in Ivory Coast, Catholic Bishops in the West African nation have, in a collective statement, expressed their condolences and spiritual closeness to the Muslim community, describing the late Ivorian religious leader as “a great figure of interreligious dialogue.”

“It is with deep sadness that the Episcopal Conference of Ivory Coast (CECCI) learned of the death of Cheick Aïma Boikary Fofana, President of the Superior Council of Imams, Mosques and Islamic Affairs (COSIM), a great figure of interreligious dialogue,” the Members of CECCI said in their May 18 statement.

Cheick Boikary died of COVID-19 related complications on Sunday May 17 in Abidjan at the age of 77, the leadership of COSIM reported.

“The Catholic Bishops' Conference offers its sincere condolences to the biological and religious families of the deceased, as well as to all those who knew and loved him,” the Catholic leaders said, expressing their assurance to the entire Muslim community of Ivory Coast of their “spiritual closeness in this painful circumstance.”

They implored “Allah the Most Merciful to cover him with His Mercy and to reserve for him a special place in Paradise.”

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A retired bank executive, the late Cheick Boikary will be remembered for his role as an ambassador for peace and reconciliation in Ivory Coast.

In 2011, he served as Vice President of the Truth and Reconciliation Dialogue Commission in the aftermath of the 2010-2011 post electoral crisis in the West African nation. In 2015, he was the Vice President of the National Commission for Reconciliation and Compensation of Victims in the country.

In January, he launched an initiative dubbed “3 days of fasting for peace and social cohesion” following political tension in the West African nation.

 The Muslim leader also made a peace tour to the restive towns of Guemon, Cavally and Tonkpi, in the western part of the country.

Political and religious leaders have described him as a true defendant for the organization of the Muslim community of Ivory Coast. 

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“His outspokenness has always marked me. I was happy and proud to be with him in the group of 100 influential personalities of Ivory Coast,” said Fr. Éric Norbert Abékan, a Clergy of the Archdiocese of Abidjan in his tribute.

He added, “If the president of COSIM has received many tributes from politicians and religious leaders, it is because he fought for many years for the organization of the Muslim community in Ivory Coast, of which he became the leader on April 25, 2006.”

“It is with great sadness that I learned of the death of my friend and brother, His Eminence Sheikh Aïma Boikary Fofana,” eulogized Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara adding that the late Muslim leader “was a great man of faith, an artisan of peace and dialogue between religious faiths.”

Laid to rest May 19, Imam Boikary had been exiled in the United States from 2002 to 2006.

He was acclaimed by his peers for playing a key role in structuring modern Islam in Ivory Coast.  He is also credited for giving the Muslim community a real dynamism over the past four decades, notably by promoting the emergence of many viable community associations.

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