Ecumenical delegation to visit the Ivory Coast

Mar 07, 2003 04:10 PM EST

Demonstrating their solidarity with the country's churches, an ecumenical delegation will be visiting the Ivory Coast from 10 to 12 March in order to explore the possibility of interfaith dialogue to help solve the political and ethnic conflict that is dividing that country.

The visit is an initiative of the World Council of Churches (WCC) in cooperation with the All Africa Conference of Churches, and the delegation will hold conversations with the leaders of the country's Christian churches. As well as conveying to them the concern of the international ecumenical community, they will examine with them the critical situation confronting the country and discuss what contribution the churches and faith communities in general can make towards a negotiated solution to the armed conflict between rebel groups and the government.

Together with leaders of the Roman Catholic Church and other faith communities, the delegation will explore possibilities of joint action for peace and reconciliation. They will sound out with members of government and opposition parties the possibility of political support for such an interfaith initiative. They will also attempt to meet with the committee monitoring the agreement made in Paris in January between rebel groups and the government.

The delegation will be composed of three members: Mr Jean Fischer, former director of the WCC Commission on Inter-Church Aid, Refugee and World Service and former general secretary of the Conference of European Churches, representing the WCC; Rev. Simon Dossou, president of the Protestant Methodist Church of Benin; and Revd Gerson Bessa, moderator of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Togo. They will be carrying out their activities in the city of Abidjan. Visits to other areas will depend on the security situation.

The Ivory Coast has a population of 16 million, with the North mainly Muslim and the South predominantly Christian. The WCC has two member churches in the country: the Protestant Methodist Church and the Harrist Church. In a letter to them dated 10 October 2002, Rev. Dr Konrad Raiser, WCC general secretary, encouraged them "to do all in their power to prevent the conflict from deteriorating into a civil war", and "to analyse the underlying causes of the crisis, and to remedy these to the best of your ability".