By Janet Chalker
After several postponements, the first presidential elections since 2000 will soon take place in Côte d’Ivoire. Civil war broke out in 2002, and a power-sharing government has been in place since the truce.
How do you prepare for elections? Bake something for the polling booth cake stall or do a letterbox drop for the party of your choice? Here it’s a bit different. People cancel any non-essential travel around the country, and they stock up on food, cash and other items in case strikes, unrest or curfews close the shops. Quite a few adults have yet to bring their children into town for school, although the school year started weeks ago. Parents prefer to keep them in the relative safety of the villages until things settle down.
How do you pray for elections? Usually, I imagine, along the lines of asking God for the candidate of His choice to be elected—for someone who will govern wisely and justly. Here it’s a bit different. There is much prayer for the elections, but I have heard almost no prayers regarding the outcome.
For the masses, the actual choice of president is a lesser concern than that of peace. Prayers are for given for peace in the lead up, peace during the voting and peace afterwords. They pray there will be no unrest, strikes, violence or looting; that everyone will accept the official result without rioting and that civil war will not flare up again; they ask God to protect children from being kidnapped and used in human sacrifices to influence the outcome (more rumor than reality, but tragically not without some basis). They pray that life can just be normal.
Although things are calm people have a strong sense of apprehension. It is so sad, to me, that the election should be dominated by such fear. And so we pray.