The following message was received this week from Dan and Elizabeth Turk. The Turks are Presbyterian Church (USA) mission co-workers in Madagascar, and Fifth Avenue mission partners. The Turks recently hosted a mission trip team from Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church, which returned to the U.S. on April 18, shortly before the current political demonstrations began.
April 27, 2018
Madagascar is still experiencing daily ongoing protests in the capital city Antananarivo. Large crowds are expected tomorrow Saturday April 28th and again on May 1st, a holiday.
The demonstrations are being led by members of the National Assembly upset with new election laws that they insist were passed with the assistance of payouts to other members of the National Assembly. These laws are seen as favoring the current president, Hery Rajaonarimampianina, and making it hard or impossible for the two other major contenders, Marc Ravalomanana and Andry Rajoelina, to run. People joining the demonstrations are expressing their frustration at the high level of corruption in the government, judicial system and armed forces. They are voicing the increasing difficulty of living with low income combined with rising prices and insecurity.
On Saturday April 21st, two people were killed in the demonstrations in front of city hall at the place known as the Treize Mai, named in remembrance of the day in 1972 when protesters burned down city hall, forcing the first Malagasy president from office. Since last Sunday afternoon, the security forces have abandoned efforts to keep the demonstrators from meeting, instead saying that they will protect people and property. Since then the demonstrators have formally asked for the High Constitutional Court to remove the president from office and have filed suit over Saturday’s deaths and wounded. They are trying to extend the demonstrations to cities in other parts of Madagascar.
People are expressing their frustration at the high level of corruption in the government and the increasing difficulty of living with low income, rising prices and insecurity.
In the next few days, the High Constitutional Court should be issuing a ruling on the constitutionality of the new electoral laws. The international community is sending mediators. The Southern African Development Community (SADC) is sending Joachim Chissano, the former president of Mozambique, who served as mediator during the 2009 crisis. The demonstrators say that he is not welcome, that failure of the international community’s efforts to adequately resolve the 2009 crisis is why demonstrators are currently in the streets. The African Union and United Nations are also sending envoys.
The Church of Jesus Christ in Madagascar (FJKM), partner church of the Presbyterian Church (USA), held a worship service for the nation yesterday April 26th. An ecumenical service of the Christian Council of Churches (composed of the FJKM, Lutheran, Catholic and Anglican churches) is scheduled for this Sunday. The Council has been asked to assist in mediation between the two sides. In a statement released Wednesday April 25th, the FJKM condemned violence, recommended dialogue as a way to solve problems, and called for prayer for the nation. It also issued condolences for those killed and prayers for recovery to those wounded.
Although all sides are currently saying that they want presidential elections to be held on schedule in late 2018, a quick resolution of the current crisis is not a given. The president faces widespread disapproval. The members of the National Assembly leading the demonstrations are trying to keep the crowds in control, but this may become harder as time goes by if people feel that their voices are not being heard or if others try to manipulate the demonstrations.
Please continue to pray for the nation of Madagascar, especially for the church leaders and others working to find a just resolution to the current crisis. Please pray that the demonstrations remain peaceful.
Dan & Elizabeth
- April 16 2018 • Dispatches from Madagascar
- March 30 2017 • Meet Our New Mission Partners: Dan and Elizabeth Turk