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Ceremony in Cote d'Ivoire for Interfaith Harmony

Grand Bassam, Côte d'Ivoire - The peace campaign in Côte d’Ivoire started in a very serious context of political crisis, a unique and unprecedented situation. After the second round of presidential elections, which was supposed to bring peace, the political crisis in Côte d’Ivoire has reached a very critical point. Despite all attempts of the international community to settle the case, the country still has two declared presidents.

After the Yamoussoukro program held in a Christian church, our biggest program was held in Grand Bassam, a former capital of the country during the colonization era on Jan. 29, 2011. Three weeks before, during a political demonstration, a policeman threw a teargas grenade into a mosque, increasing the anger in Muslim community and stirring up young Muslims to burn a police car and attack the police station. Thanks to the good offices of Imam Dramé Moussa, an Ambassador for Peace, calm returned. After that the Governor (Prefect) held a meeting with religious leaders of the city, including Catholic, Protestant, and Muslim.

When Imam Moussa heard about the interfaith harmony program he immediately asked to hold the ceremony in Grand Bassam and offered the mosque as a venue, hoping to increase understanding between religious communities. Our focus was to get participants from Islam, Christianity, and the African churches of the city. We also invited people and Ambassadors for Peace from others cities; a total of 150 people gathered.

The program started with a reading from the Qur’an by an imam, followed by the invocation. The UPF secretary general came onto stage to give the introductory address, presenting briefly UPF's vision and activities. Then he introduced all the religious leaders who were present and called them on the stage one after the other.

The evangelical churches were represented by Rev. Mambo Luc, pastor of the Church of God’s Soldiers for Unification and World Release. Rev. Luc, an Ambassador for Peace, explained how the founder of the Church was called by God and the mission of the church.

The Secretary General of the Harris Mission Church of Jesus, Head Preacher Dogbo Jules, also an Ambassador for Peace, came onto the stage to explain how the Church of Jesus was founded by William Wade Harris, a Liberian citizen, in 1913. The Harris Mission was more successful in the land of Côte d’Ivoire, where the community is the largest in West Africa, with more than 200,000 members.

The president of Unification Church, Rev. Wawayou Samuel, was invited to introduce the church and its doctrine.

The last speaker was Sheikh Zacharia, representing Islam. He addressed the audience by explaining that Islam is a religion of peace.

For many participants it was the first time to hear about another leader speaking about his religion. But we could feel the interest of people hearing the speeches. Seven faiths leaders were invited; unfortunately two could not come due to unpredictable events. The Catholic Bishop of Grand Bassam was invited but called the UPF Secretary General the day before to apologize that he could not attend the ceremony. The Sufi leader could not come due a sudden sickness. Sheikh Kobeissi Ali, the Shi'ite community leader, called two hours before the ceremony to say he could not attend.

After the religious leaders’ explanations, Mr. Adama Doumbia, UPF Director for West Africa 2, gave a lecture on the Need for an Interfaith Council at the UN, bringing more clarification about the UPF founder’s initiative. The presentation was well received, based on reactions of participants at the end of the ceremony.

After the lecture, five new peace ambassadors were appointed.

The assistant governor of the city, representing the Prefect of Grand Bassam, came on stage to congratulate UPF for the initiative and expressed support for the implementation of an interreligious council not only at UN but also in nations.

All the participants were invited to sign the UPF resolution about the campaign for interfaith harmony. More than 50 people signed the resolution. The leaders who attended the ceremony will be the forerunners of the committee to support the peace campaign during the coming year.

To conclude, Sheikh Abba Cissé of the High Authority of Imams offered a prayer for UPF’s founder and for peace in Côte d’Ivoire.

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