THE Bishop of Antananarivo in Madagascar, the Rt Revd Jaona
Ranarivelo, warned this week that the country's long-awaited
elections, which are scheduled to be held next week, would not
solve its many problems.
Since the coup in 2009, which took place after protests against
restrictions on the opposition, the country has been held in
political gridlock. Tourism has fallen by more than 50 per cent,
growth has been "anaemic", the CIA reports, and aid has been
suspended (News, 27 February
Madagascar is one of the poorest countries in the world. Half of
the population, 80 per cent of whom work in agriculture, live below
the poverty line, and more than a third of children under five are
underweight. The country also suffers from cyclones and plagues of
locusts. Last week, the UN warned that four million people were
"food insecure", and a further 9.6 million "at risk".
On Monday, Bishop Ranarivelo, who is visiting Canterbury for a
Communities and Partnerships Framework conference, said: "The
election can be one among other solutions, but not the only way to
get out of the crisis. There are many, many things which are
threatening for our situation: violence, moral degradation, and the
economy. . . We call upon politicians and other actors in the
country, like NGOs, religious leaders and others, to sit round the
table and to share: 'Where are we going together?'"
He spoke of an economy "dropping down at very, very drastic
levels", an increase in crime, children withdrawn from school, and
unemployment. Another challenge was climate change wrought by
deforestation - because of people burning trees for fuel and land,
but also the actions of Western extraction companies.
Next year, Bishop Ranarivelo will chair the Christian Council of
Churches in Madagascar. On Monday, he described how the Council had
begun in the 1980s, when Marxism was the prevalent ideology in the
"For many years, the Church has been involved in the
transformation of the life of the country in many different ways,"
he said. "The Church has to be light and salt, and to bring peace
to our nation, in spite of the trouble and difficulties that it is
"Fortunately, there is still a high expectation from Madagascar
people for the Church to bring . . . a new dimension of peace and
reconciliation in the life of the country."
The "sense of diakonia" was important, he suggested:
"this ability to serve and to work for others and to be a witness
in the country".
In 2010, the Christian radio station in Madagascar was shut
down, and eight members of staff detained. A pastor of the Church
of Jesus Christ in Madagascar, Ranaivo Rivoarison, was shot by
government forces (News, 4 June 2010). On Monday,
Bishop Ranarivelo said that, even if the response was violence, the
Church must "speak for those who cannot speak for