Christian churches are assuming a more prominent social role in Madagascar as poltical turmoil rocks the African nation.
During the December elections, disputes broke out about the legitimacy of the process. Opposition leader Marc Ravalomanana claimed that the elections had been rigged and that he had won an outright majority. On Feb. 22, Ravalomanana declared himself president and his followers are more or less in control of the capital, Antananarivo. But incumbent president and ruler for 23 years, Didier Ratsiraka (still recognized by the international community), keeps control over other parts of the country.
The role of the Christian Churches during the crisis has been unusual. Parish choirs and nuns accompany political demonstrations in the capital. Religious services are celebrated before self-proclaimed president Ravalomanana addresses the crowd. A successful businessman, Ravalomanana is also an active Christian and a deacon in the Reformed Church. He enjoys the support of all the major Christian Churches, gathered within the FFKM (National Council of Christian Churches in Madagascar, bringing together the Roman Catholic Church, the Reformed Church, the Lutheran Church and the Anglican Church).
Relations between Churches and Ratsiraka had never been good, if only due to the fact that Ratsiraka had a Marxist background. The FFKM and other observers confirmed Ravalomanana’s victory at the December elections. Answering questions from RW, Swiss National Radio journalist Cyril Dépraz, recently returned from Madagascar, explained that Ravalomanana denies any intention of transforming Madgascar into a Christian state or to develop a Bible-based program for running the country.What is taking place in Madagascar is not a “religious revolution,” but a popular protest movement.
The churches have the only really functioning and reliable infrastructure — a trend present in a number of other African countries. The churches have become the major institutions for providing health, education and development aid, thanks to their international networks (Such American denominations as Presbyterian Church (USA), and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America recently sent a letter of solidarity to their Protestant counterparts in Madagascar). For further coverage of developments in Madagascar visit: http://allafrica.com/Madagascar/
— By Jean-François Mayer