Urgent call to stop the ongoing attack against the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church

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Urgent call to stop the ongoing attacks against the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church

Almost two years ago, the current government of Ethiopia led by H.E. Prime Minister Dr. Abiy Ahmed came to power on the back of enormous public support from all walks of life and political views. The prime minister pledged comprehensive reform and transition the country into a democratic system on the eve of his inauguration and to some extent made good on his promises. As the oldest and biggest institution of the country, the swiping changes that ensued the power dynamic shift has influenced the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, referred to as “the church” from now on. We are grateful for the role the prime minster played in reconciling the politically perpetrated division of the church that lasted for well over two decades. However, the church has also become a scapegoat for all the wrongs that pegged the country throughout its history and the victim of the prime minister’s and his government’s ineptness to uphold the rule of law in the country. The disinformation campaign against the church is deeply rooted and state sanctioned attacks against the church has been going on for several years. However, the unchecked media power seized by some religious and ethnic fanatics following the regime change compounded by the reluctance of the government to hold them accountable for spreading hate speech and inciting violence has exacerbated the situation. The extraordinary silence from government (and local) officials have been construed by hooligans as ‘a license to kill' while those facing the attack are left feeling abandoned. Subsequently, unprovoked slaying and displacement of the church followers and burning of churches have become routine and often used as a show of force tool by misguided ethnocentric political groups and 'advocates'.

According to a recent letter submitted to Dr. Abiy Ahmed by the church leaders, documents show in the last 18 months alone hundreds of Ethiopians were killed inhumanely only because they were Christian’s (including priests and deacons), hundreds were physically disabled, several women and girls were raped or forced to convert their religion, tens of thousands were displaced for fear of their life and at least 25 churches have been burned to the ground. In particular, social and mainstream media campaign by ethnic and religious extremists against the church and its followers is prominent in the Oromia regional state. Repeated high level meetings, including that of between His Holiness patriarch Abune Matias and H.E. Prime Minister Dr. Abiy Ahmed, did not avail any meaningful result. Left unaddressed, we are gravely concerned the recent violence will escalate into a full-blown religious conflict that is extremely difficult to stop in a multiethnic and multireligious country like Ethiopia.

Besides, there is nothing more disheartening than listening to our leaders disguising their inaction against the attack on churches as tolerance to promote democracy. Tolerating hate speech and violence against the church by ethnic entrepreneurs shouldn’t be a prerequisite to promote a democratic environment in Ethiopia. This repeated claim is a lame excuse at best or blatant lie at worst to evade responsibility or attempt to shield the perpetrators of this abhorrent attack. The extent to which some prominent leaders in the Oromia regional state are willing to go to cover for known extremist figures after they incite violence against ethnic and religious minority groups is unbecoming of a leader. Therefore, the ad hoc coalition committee established recently by priests and parish council members of Ethiopian Orthodox Church’s in Eastern Canada is calling upon all Ethiopians regardless of their religious and ethnic affiliation, leaders of various religious organizations, activists and human right advocates to condemn the attacks against the church and to be the voice for the voiceless. We also hereby call upon the Ethiopian government to stand up against these despicable attacks and uphold the rule of law. We also urge the government of Canada and other governments around the world to use their political leverage to uphold basic human rights of Ethiopians. As Prime Minister Dr. Abiy once said, the church is the social fabric that glued Ethiopia. Simply put, the church is Ethiopia! Therefore, an attack on the church is an attack on all of us! Attacking the church is attacking Ethiopia!

We have no political motivation behind our call for action. Our sole message is to demand for the government of Ethiopia to uphold the constitution of the country and protect basic human rights of Christians and their churches from anyone who may have misgivings against the current government or may have their own religious motivation. Therefore, we kindly ask all of you to join us in condemning the attack on the church and the reluctance of the government to hold the assailants accountable. Help us to disseminate the message by sharing this link with family and friends.