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Ivorians hope, pray for peaceful vote


6:00 P.M. EST Nov. 1, 2010 | ABIDJAN, Côte d’Ivoire (UMNS)

United Methodists in Côte d’Ivoire pray for a peaceful vote during the country’s Oct. 31 elections. A UMNS photo by Isaac Broune.
United Methodists in Côte d’Ivoire pray for a peaceful vote during the country’s Oct. 31 elections. A UMNS photo by Isaac Broune.
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The United Methodist Church did its part – on bended knees – to ensure a peaceful vote Oct. 31 in the country’s first presidential election since civil war divided the nation.

The day after, church members joined with many others inside and outside the West African nation in hope and prayer as election workers counted ballots from 20,000 polling stations. The United Nations is helping transport certified results, which were delayed in some places by heavy rains, the Associated Press reported.

There is a greater overseer, Bishop Benjamin Boni reminded the United Methodist faithful.

“God is the one who presides over the destinies of nations,” he said in special prayers before the election.

Since becoming independent on Aug. 7, 1960, Côte d’Ivoire held general elections every five years until 2000. However, this former French-colony faced its first military coup on Dec. 24, 1999. Attempted coups followed until Sept. 19, 2002, when a rebellion partitioned the country in half.

The last presidential elections were held in October 2000. New elections have been postponed five times in recent years.

The Oct. 31 election is seen as critical to the prospects for peace and national unity. But some fear greater violence if the results are not accepted by all parties. The 14 candidates in the election include President Laurent Gbagbo, opposition leader Alassane Ouattara and former President Henri Konan Bédié, who was ousted in the 1999 coup.

The United Methodist Church has been a strong supporter of the elections.

It called for a two-hour prayer service every night in local churches starting Oct. 25. More than 2,000 members gathered to raise their voices to God at a special prayer night Oct. 28 at Jerusalem Adjamé United Methodist Church.

The service was broadcast live by The United Methodist Church-owned-radio station, “La Voix de l’Espérance.”

Speaking at that prayer night, Boni asked United Methodists constantly to bend their knees during this crucial step in the process of presidential elections. He started by quoting Psalms 121:1-2 “I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth. He will not suffer thy foot to be moved: he that keepeth thee will not slumber.” (KJV)

“The United Methodist Church urges all the Ivorian people to go to the polls this Sunday, Oct. 31, to vote for the presidential elections in peace and serenity, in a true spirit of citizenship and responsibility, before, during and after the elections,” Boni said.

To help members vote, Sunday services in all churches were rescheduled for 7 a.m.

The church radio station focused its programming on prayers for peace and reconciliation, featuring the voices of religious leaders from several denominations asking people to accept the outcome of the vote. Special prayer vigils were held Friday through Sunday nights.

God is in control, Boni said.

He invited Ivorians to “live in a hope of a happy outcome to this situation.”

*Broune is a United Methodist communicator based in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire.

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