The plight of Ethiopian Orthodox Christians continues and appears to be deliberately perpetrated by government officials and institutions.
- On January 9, 2022 – Orthodox Christians gathered inside and outside St. Stephen Church near Mesqel Square in Addis Ababa were attacked with tear gas by law enforcement officers at the direction of the mayor of Addis Ababa – Adanech Abebe. This gross and inhumane act and infringement of the believers’ rights to worship took place at the very moment another religious program sponsored by a protestant pastor was being held at Meskel Square – a site that is historically and practically reserved for the celebration of the Founding of the Cross by the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church. The mayor was a guest or keynote speaker at this event and declared that this was the people’s square – clearly and arrogantly defying the church’s historical ownership of this site.
- On January 19, three young Orthodox Christians were murdered by Oromia region security forces who prevented the procession of the Tabot of Weybla Mariam Church in the outskirts of Addis Ababa. The procession of the Tabot with thousands of the faithful was blocked from returning to the church after celebrating Epiphany simply for wearing and displaying the Ethiopian flag. The Oromia Security forces stood in defiance of this historical religious procession – intimidating the faithful with brutal fire force and military-grade armored vehicles.
- To date, no official or individual has been held accountable for the atrocities against the church and the faithful for the last three years – with empty promises of investigations.
These persecutions against Ethiopian Orthodox Christians have been largely ignored by the international community and by local and international human rights organizations, including UNHCR. The legal system at every level seems to protect the perpetrators instead of holding those responsible accountable. Parliament and elected officials at every local, regional and federal level have failed to denounce these atrocities. We call on parliament, political leaders and human rights watch groups denounce these coordinated and targeted atrocities against the Orthodox Tewahedo Church hold all perpetrators and enablers within government institutions.
The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission investigation concluded that the June 29 – July 01, 2020 atrocities committed following the death of artist Hachalu Hundessa in several municipalities and towns of the Oromia region were “Crime against humanity and Atrocity Crimes”. The commission released a 64 page report detailing the massacre against innocent citizens where 123 people were killed, 500 were seriously injured and 6,468 citizens have been displace from their homes due to destruction of property and fear for their safety. The investigation highlighted that the atrocities were committed by well organized mob driven from place-to-place and directed against ethnically Amhara people in cities and Christians in Muslim dominated towns. The report also confirmed that in some localities the atrocities begun before the news of Hachalu’s killing was aired, suggesting the targeted attack was pre-planned. The report also found that regional security officials failed to respond to victims’ pleas and in some instances stood silently while the attacks were going or provided cover for the assailants. Shortly after these crimes, the Holy Synod of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church issued a press release demanding for government authorities to protect the targets of the crimes and to bring the perpetrators to justice.
Christians are believed to be the targets of the recent violence that followed the death of Artist Hachalu Hundessa
Archbishop of Somali and East Hararghe Orthodox Tewahedo Church
Translated from his press release in Amharic
Jan 29, 2020
“We call for the end of a system that benefits one group while excluding others.” Abune Mekarios,
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
We call for the end of a system that benefits one group while excluding others.
For those who were attacked by the police that were supposed to serve everyone without prejudice, those who were arrested even after being attacked by people who are now walking free – we want you to remain strong for your sufferings shall be counted as good deeds in the eyes of the Lord. Like our forefathers passed through times of hardships by keeping their faith, we are certain that nothing will stop you from doing the same. Christianity is always about victory over challenges, not a guarantee to a temporary satisfaction. The latest attack on Christians is no different from what the wicked emperors had done against our forefathers. You undeniably have more to gain by enduring challenges like our forefathers did.
Even though organized mobsters with irresponsible security police officers attempted to incite you to engage in violence and chaos, you remained patient and strong. By so doing, you have proved how strong Christians are, even during trying times. And be happy for what you did (for your patience and restraint).
It is not possible to live a peaceful life while publicly discriminating Christians. Bearing this in mind, we want the government to evaluate its system once again and stop these irresponsible government officials, who are attempting to advance their hate filled agenda and are attempting to impose their belief (on Christians), from committing such acts.
The police must serve all citizens despite their background and religion and impartially, without prejudice. However, the latest attacks targeted against our church reveals that the reality on the ground is different. Since it is challenging to live a peaceful life while persecuting others (Christians), we want the government to ensure such acts (of terror) won’t happen again and to take the necessary preventive measures before it gets worse.
Between January 19 and January 22, 2020, Christians were physically attacked, properties of four Christians were destroyed, 17 Christians are unfairly arrested; 246 Christians are displaced from their homeland and fled to Debre Adhano St Gabriel Church in Harar after being physically attacked, robbed and received death threats. We want all human beings to stand up for justice. Harrar is not a city that belongs to only a small group of people, but it is for all Ethiopians.
We request the government bring to justice the groups and individuals that are trying to incite violence between communities that are living in harmony and peace. The fact is that the perpetrators of these heinous attacks are being released, while Christians who were victims of these atrocities are still being arrested. We call for the end of such (blatant) acts.
Even though some commendable actions have been taken by the regional government which announced it has arrested the mobsters who were behind the recent attacks, such act (arresting the innocent and releasing the perpetrators) however is nothing different from arresting Christ while releasing Barabbas.
We were happy that the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) passed a resolution to add Ethiopian Epiphany to the list of World Intangible Cultural Heritages. On the other hand, the attempt to take over a place of religious festivals of Orthodox followers and replace it with another one is very depressing. We call for the end of such actions.
Like other religions that celebrate their sacred festivals peacefully without being attacked, we want to urge the government to do the same to all Christians without prejudice. As long as followers of Christians are being victims to violence and attacks… we will continue demanding for the respect of our rights. We also want to make it clear that we will hold a demonstration to denounce the recent attacks soon.
We once again denounce the acts of the regional government’s actions of arresting innocent Christians, while releasing mobsters. And, we call upon the Christian youth to be organized and defend their faith from anymore attack and collect the necessary evidence if any additional acts are committed by mobsters against churches to bring those perpetrators to justice.
God Bless Ethiopia