The National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) joins the World Evangelical Alliance in asking evangelicals to pray for an end to the worsening violence and crisis in Ivory Coast (also known by the French name Cote D’Ivoire). Hundreds of Ivorians have been killed in recent massacres, and more than a million have fled their homes to escape the rapidly escalating conflict.

“Evangelical missionaries have worked in Ivory Coast since the 1920s, planting churches and supporting schools, hospitals and other social ministries,” said NAE President Leith Anderson. “Our hearts go out to the people of Ivory Coast who desperately want peace, and especially to those who have lost loved ones in the recent fighting.”

After winning independence from France in 1960, Ivory Coast became a regional economic powerhouse and remains the world’s largest producer of cocoa. Despite frequent upheavals in the neighboring countries of Liberia and Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast was until recently an anchor for peace and stability in West Africa.

In November 2010, Ivory Coast held a presidential election, which according to most international observers was won by Alassane Ouattara. The incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo has refused to step down despite calls from the Africa Union and countries throughout the world. The resulting impasse has grown increasingly violent.

“Scripture calls us to pray for our leaders and all who are in authority,” Anderson said. “I am praying that President Gbagbo will step down gracefully for the good of his country and for the peace of the entire region of West Africa.”

The NAE also encourages its members to support humanitarian relief efforts to care for displaced refugees in the region.