UMCOR Attends Ivorian Inauguration
May 18, 2011—When Alassane Ouattara is inaugurated as president of Cote d’Ivoire this weekend, among the guests at the ceremony will be Rev. Cynthia Fierro Harvey, head of the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR), and Bishop Janice Riggle Huie, president of UMCOR’s board of directors.
“It’s an incredible privilege and a great honor to be invited to the inauguration,” said Harvey, who saw the invitation as recognition of the valuable humanitarian role UMCOR can play as Cote d’Ivoire moves forward.
The elections that brought Ouattara to the presidency were held in November 2010 and were meant to signal the end of eight years of division and violence in the country. However, they were followed by four months of further civil unrest, which impeded Ouattara’s taking office, until now.
Harvey said the UMCOR presence in Cote d’Ivoire during the inauguration would be “a visible sign of solidarity and our hope for peace for the whole country—a lasting peace, one that goes beyond the absence of war and advances a sense of calm and of unity,” she said.
It would also be a sign of support for the Ivorian church and its leadership, she added, “as together, in a spirit of collaboration, we seek to serve the people of Cote d’Ivoire.”
Harvey and Huie will be accompanied by Bishop Benjamin Boni of the Cote d’Ivoire Annual Conference and will worship with him on Sunday. The presidential inauguration will take place on Saturday in the Ivorian capital, Yamoussoukro.
As resident bishop of the Texas Annual Conference, Huie along with Bishop Boni leads a covenant relationship between their respective annual conferences which was formalized three years ago.
The covenant focuses on collaborative efforts in the areas of health, education, microcredit, seminary education, community radio, and the distribution of long-lasting, insecticide-treated mosquito nets. A million Ivorians were covered in the first net distribution in 2008.
“UMCOR hopes to build a good working relationship with the leaders of the new government and to count on their support to facilitate broad humanitarian projects, such as the distribution of mosquito nets to stem the spread of malaria,” Harvey said.
“UMCOR was created at the start of the second world war to be a sign of peace,” she recalled. “It seems only natural that 71 years later, we should once again be in a position to help extend peace and wholeness.”