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Link Between Religion, Politics, Peace Discussed at Ivorian Religious Leaders’ Meeting

Panelists at the meeting of Religious Leaders in Ivory Coast.

Following a series of statements by Catholic Bishops in Ivory Coast calling for reconciliation and peaceful elections in the country, religious leaders in the West African nation have, in a panel discussion, explained the relationship between religion, politics and peace.

“If it is true and sincere that politics in its expression seeks the good of man, of the citizen, to allow him to flourish in society, then this politics falls within the field of expression of the Church's politics,” said the national executive secretary of the Episcopal Commission for Justice and Peace in Ivory Coast, Fr Charles Olidjo during the panel discussion organized by the Pan-African Biennial Centre for Human Rights and Humanitarian Action, an Ivorian NGO.

“Through its social doctrine, the Church gives herself the prerogative of projecting the light of the Gospel in the fields of politics, economics, culture and today ecology,” Fr Olidjo explained during the exchange that was held at Abidjan’s Press Centre, Tuesday, March 10.

According to the Ivorian cleric, “Although the Church does not intend to exercise the power of the State, its vision of man, impressed by the mystery of the incarnation of the Son of God, imposes on it a determined commitment to the integral salvation of man.”

In his opinion, “Christian and Muslim religious have contributed to the establishment of a climate of peace in Ivory Coast.”

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The panel discussion that brought together leaders of various Christian denominations including the Imam of the Abidjan Central Mosque was held under the theme, “Religion, Politics and Peace in Ivory Coast.”

At the end of their Plenary Assembly held from January 14-19,  Bishops in Ivory Coast highlighted four issues that need to be addressed to avert a possible post-election crisis, top on their list having been reconciliation.

In a collective statement, at the end of their the plenary assembly, the Bishops explained, “Reconciliation presupposes, indeed requires, the return of exiles with guarantees of security and reintegration, the release of all political prisoners and prisoners of conscience, without exception, and the unfreezing of assets.”

A delegation of Prelates in the West African country was recently received by President Alassane Ouattara to discuss the “reconciliation of all Ivorians” as well as peace and stability in the country.

Also speaking at the March 10 exchange forum, the Grand Mosque of the Plateau and director general of the national Muslim radio station Al Bayane, El Hadj Cissé Djiguiba, praised the excellent relationship between religions in Ivory Coast through the forum of religious confessions which for two decades has been “a framework for permanent consultation between Muslim and Christian leaders.”

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Recalling the current pre-electoral context, the imam of the Abidjan central Mosque dwelt on what should be the discourse of the religious during this pre-electoral period, saying, “October 31 is a crucial date that has been crystallized by the political class whose race for power makes them forget the stakes of this appointment.”

“All the headquarters of political parties are in turmoil and this puts enormous pressure on the population,” he lamented.

“In their speech, the religious must have a role of moderator, mediator, uniting, which allows peace to reign in our country,” he recommended.

For the Vice President of the Ivorian Senate, Makani Diaby, “Well-conceived, well-conducted and well-directed religion and politics are and should be, as the debate has shown, factors contributing to the establishment and advent of a climate of peace, based on fraternity, justice and tolerance.”

According to the general coordinator of the Pan-African Biennial Centre for Human Rights and Humanitarian Action, Yao Noël, the NGO he heads has made a firm commitment “to work for the advent of a climate of peace, urging religious denominations to deliver the message of fraternity, love, tolerance and justice especially in this year of elections, where political competition will be fiercely contested.”

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