This nation has endured some civil strife in the past generation, although thankfully it has not degraded into war or intractable conflict. Ethnic, tribal, regional, and political divisions will be very difficult to overcome. Côte d’Ivoire currently divides mostly along ethnic and religious lines. The Muslims (north), and the Christians and animists (south), all seek political power. Pray for leaders to be free of corruption, and to work for unity and nation building.
The country has been essentially divided between Muslim north and multi-faith but predominantly Christian south. Although peace is established and the nation is moving forward, the loss of life, of infrastructure and of confidence in Côte d'Ivoire's fundamental unity will leave scars on the nation's psyche. Pray for political leaders who are visionary, non-partisan, free of corruption and able to boldly take the nation forward and past this unfortunate episode in Côte d'Ivoire's history. Pray also for a satisfactory solution to the remaining challenge - how to handle the millions of immigrants from neighbouring countries, a problem at the core of the conflict of 2002-2007.
Animism is still strong in Côte d'Ivoire, despite apparent numerical decline. Although evangelical congregations outnumber sacred fetish groves for the first time in the nation's history, animism's power remains unbroken and penetrates deep into the worldview and practices of both Christians and Muslims. Many believers are affected by the power of African traditional religion, especially through fetish charms and ancestor worship, compromising both their witness and their own life in Christ. Pray that all who have not fully left behind this past might be completely delivered by the power of Jesus. Pray that believers might withstand temptation to revert to old practices of animism.
Pray for evangelicals and their ministry in Côte d'Ivoire. Partnerships and teamwork are on the rise, but more progress needs to be made if the growth enjoyed in the 1990s is to be repeated, if the country is to be effectively evangelized and if the Church is to be discipled.
Islam spread and grew rapidly during the 20th Century, from 5% in 1900 to near 41.8% today. Tribal groups in the north and pockets of tribes all over the country are becoming Muslim. Urban concentrations of Muslims are high as are conversion rates among new immigrants to the cities. Sadly, many southern Ivoirian Christians have aligned themselves with the president and his political agenda, and have thereby undermined their potential for genuine witness to northerners; foreign Christian witness may be the most effective way to reach the north. Pray that Christians may be zealous to win non-Muslims while they can and to show humility and love for them. Pray for the healing of the north-south ethnic divide created by politicians, which is making outreach to Muslims even harder than before.
Social challenges for prayer:
- Abidjan's exploding population has doubled in the last 15 years to five million in the metropolitan area, making it the third largest city in the Francophone world. It is the strategic key for evangelization of Côte d'Ivoire, Mali and Burkina Faso. All people groups of these latter two lands have a significant community in the city, but most are neglected by the Church. Over 2.5 million Muslims, roughly half of the city, are scarcely touched with the gospel. Missionaries from CAPRO, SIM, CMA and the Baptists are a mere drop in the bucket of church planting needs. Many new congregations are started every month, but these focus on already-Christian peoples.
- AIDS is a major problem in the country, although HIV prevalence rates have gone down to 4.7% of the population - still nearly one million people. The large majority of those HIV-positive are women. Both the government and many Christian ministries (CMFI, REMAR, Church of God) are doing good work in terms of awareness, education and care for those infected.
- Young people are responsive, and wherever churches minister specifically to them, there is fruit - denominations are increasingly introducing student ministry to their work. Liberty to teach Scripture in public schools is an exciting but under-used opportunity through lack of qualified personnel. SU makes a vital contribution in school evangelism and discipleship. The IFES Francophone Africa headquarters is in Abidjan, and there are strong GBU/IFES groups present. Cru is also well established, with 30 full-time staff, reaching students in several cities.
- PEMA, the film studio for the Association of Evangelicals in Africa, based in Abidjan, produces culturally relevant programmes on video for transmission by national television stations across West Africa. Topics such as HIV/AIDS, family life and other relevant social issues get a sound biblical treatment in these programmes.
- Christian music writing and recording continues to be influential in Côte d'Ivoire and indeed from here to the rest of West Africa. Many quality albums and songs have been recorded and produced here. Pray that the messages of the songs remain biblically sound and that the lifestyle of the artists reflects the message.
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Content taken or adapted from Operation World, 7th Edition (2010) and Pray for the World (2015). Both books are published by InterVarsity Press. All rights reserved.