One hundred years ago, the Ivory Coast was in the midst of a Christian revival. Today, Christians face the prospect of a Muslim takeover, aided and abetted by the government. At a recent conference organised by Barnabas Fund to address persecution, Christian leaders from French-speaking West Africa shared their concerns about the future of the Ivory Coast.
Mass Muslim migration from nearby countries over several decades has brought the country to a tipping point. Figures compiled by the Pew Research Center in 2011 assessed the population as being 44% Christian and 37% Muslim, although some surveys had already recorded a Muslim majority. It is now estimated that only around one-third of the total population of the Ivory Coast are of Ivorian origin. Our partner writes: “This Muslim population has been given access to Ivorian citizenship and are able to interfere in the country policy making through their vote.”
Following a controversial and violent election in 2011, the Ivory Coast is now headed by President Alassane Ouattara, a Muslim who has campaigned for the naturalisation of all immigrants, a move which would give the Ivory Coast an instant Muslim majority, as at least 70% of the more than 2 million foreign migrant workers in the country are Muslims. There appears to have been a concerted effort to systematically destroy the historical records of the non-Muslim population; record offices have been deliberately torched across the country and, in 2013, the government passed legislation making it easier for foreign nationals to claim citizenship, giving them the right to vote in elections. In 2015, Ouattara secured a second presidential term with an apparent 84% of the vote.
The swift expansion of the Muslim population in the Ivory Coast is a clear example of Islamisation “from below”, encouraged and facilitated by government, in line with dawa (Islamic mission), which aims to convert entire societies. The rapid assault of Islam on Ivorian identity has wider implications in the region; Islam is now the fastest growing religion on the planet and by 2050 there are expected to be 670 million Muslims in sub-Saharan Africa, up from around 250 million in 2011. The Ivory Coast is now at a turning point, as Christians face the prospect of becoming a minority in a country where Christianity flourished less than a century ago; a stark warning to the region.