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Lay Catholic Association in Ivory Coast Encourages Citizens to Be “sowers of peace”

A poster calling on Ivorians to embrace peace amid political tensions.

The members of Sant’Egidio Community in Ivory Coast, an organization that is part of the Rome-based Lay Catholic association dedicated to the provision of social services and arbitrating conflicts, Sant’Egidio Community, have issued a statement on the rising political tensions in the West African nation of Ivory Coast ahead of the presidential election scheduled for October.

In the Thursday, August 13 statement obtained by ACI Africa, the members of Sant’Egidio Community in the Ivory Coast's economic capital, Abidjan, appeal “to everyone's sense of responsibility and solidarity so that everyone becomes a sower of peace.”

“Peace is always possible. It is realized everyday with gestures of love, solidarity and fraternity,” Ivory Coast’s Sant’Egidio Community members say in their statement titled, “Call for Peace.”

Tensions in Ivory Coast, the world’s top cocoa producer, are rising along political and ethnic fault lines, ahead of the October 31 presidential elections.

President Alassane Ouattara’s announcement to run for a third term in the upcoming elections has sparked violent protests in the West African nation. He had earlier declared that he would not run, expressing his support for Prime Minister Amadou Gon Coulibaly who died on July 8 reportedly of heart attack.

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In the central part of the country, President Ouattara’s supporters clashed with proponents of opposition candidate Henry Bedie, leading to the deaths of at least four people, Aljazeera reported.

The ongoing tensions bring to memory the low-level civil war that erupted in 2011 when former president Laurent Gbagbo refused to cede power to Ouattara after losing elections. The ensuing unrest claimed some 3,000 lives and split the country along north-south lines.

Against this backdrop, members of Sant’Egidio Community in Ivory Coast reminded Ivorians, in the August 13 statement, of the violence the country experienced in 2011 and urge the citizens of the West African country to work towards achieving lasting peace. 

“After several years of violence and confrontation, today in Ivory Coast there is no longer war. But the consequences of the heavy divisions experienced during the last decade are still before us,” members of the Lay Catholic Association say. 

They add, “We live in a society which, on a daily basis, is still affected by individual or collective violence, where lynchings are carried out in the neighborhoods of our cities or where the weakest life is not defended.” 

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“We think especially of abandoned children, those living on the streets, the elderly who are unprotected and often marginalized in their environment,” add members of the Sant’Egidio Community in Ivory Coast further say.

They advocate for peace among Ivorians saying, “Today we are more convinced of the importance of fighting together a new battle for peace and non-violence: a battle that arises from believers of different denominations and is addressed to everyone.”

They add, “We, in our beautiful country the Ivory Coast, have had the painful experience of this (violence). We are firmly convinced that with war all is truly lost and that with peace everything becomes possible.” 

“Yes, peace is possible. Let us seek peace without calculation, without fear, as one people who want to live together in this world with the desire that there be room for all God's children beyond all differences and divisions,” members of Sant’Egidio Community in Ivory Coast say.

Last month, Catholic Bishops in Ivory Coast highlighted the conditions necessary for achieving reconciliation, justice and peace amid rising political tensions.

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In a 79-page Pastoral letter issued July 21, the Church leaders said, “Reconciliation that is inclusive and participatory in the sense that it must not exclude any antagonism” is necessary for achieving the much-needed justice and peace in the nation ahead of the presidential poll. 

“Reconciliation must be accompanied by courageous and honest acts: meeting the protagonists of the crisis, listening to each other, rebuilding a common history, accepting the painful past, taking into account the sufferings of each and every one, accepting the motivations, reasons and causes of the crisis,”  the members of the Episcopal Conference of Ivory Coast (CECCI) stated their July 21 pastoral letter.