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article imageOp-Ed: Religion and the exploitation of religion in Cote D'Ivoire

By Frank Kaufmann     Mar 30, 2011 in World
New York - The horrific violence in Ivory Coast, stemming from Laurent Gbagbo's gross violation of election results, is degenerating into sectarian conflict involving religious identities of Ivorians typically divided north and south.
AP reports clear signs of a growing campaign of violence against Muslims who widely support Alassane Ouattara, the internationally recognized winner of November's presidential election. Ouattara is Muslim. Ouattara supporters have been beaten to death with bricks, even doused with gasoline and burned alive. At least 10 mosques across Abidjan have been set ablaze, and another was abandoned after attackers threw a grenade through a window during prayers.
Laurent Gbagbo's refusal to recognize U.N.-certified results of recent national elections showing that he lost, has thrust his country into cycles of violence reminiscent of the 2002-2003 civil war that split Ivory Coast into a rebel-controlled north and a loyalist south.
As is often the case, "the political manipulation of ethnicity results in entrenched sectarian violence along religious, ethnic and national lines, though the root of the conflict is competition for political power." This according to Corinne Dufka, a senior researcher with Human Rights Watch.
Pope Benedict XVI
Pope Benedict XVI
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Anyone with influence, and everyone who prays should seek the rapid dissolution of religious exploitation associated with the gross and illegal lust for power engaged by Laurent Gbagbo.
While religion is being twisted and dragged into false ties with political evil, more genuine religion is seen in the speech of His Holiness Benedict XVI, who according to Zenit is offering prayers for peace in Ivory Coast and is expressing closeness to the victims of violence in that country.
Today in his general audience, the Pope spoke about the people of Ivory Coast "traumatized by painful internal conflicts and grave social and political tensions."
The Holy Father announced that he is sending Cardinal Peter Kodwo Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, to "that noble country" to "express my solidarity and that of the universal Church with the victims of the conflict, and to encourage reconciliation and peace."
Archbishop Jean-Pierre Kutwa of Abidjan, Ivory Coast, told Fides in response: "We are pleased about the Holy Father's words and we thank him for them. We hope that his voice is heard."
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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