25 August 2015
A group of 15 young believers travelled 430 km from Addis Ababa to the Eastern Ethiopian town of Karamile in the Muslim majority area of Oromia state to meet other Christian youngsters and do outreach work.
The group encountered trouble on their first day when a group of local people who were opposed to their evangelism efforts physically assaulted two of the girls in the group. Police intervened but instead of taking action against the aggressors they arrested and jailed all of the 15 visiting youths. Local church leaders intervened and advocated for their release which happened later that day.
The leaders and the group of youths thought that would be the end of the story. However the next day town administrators and security officers summoned all church leaders in Karamile to a meeting and ordered them to stop all evangelistic activities outside of the church premises. The officials said the Christians could no longer talk to anyone about religion outside church premises. They also said although the Christians had the right to pray privately in their homes with their families, they were not allowed to invite other people to such prayers. These regulations are in conflict with the Constitution of Ethiopia, which guarantees freedom of religion and protects freedom of expression without interference. Church leaders in Karamile asked us to pray for them as they consider how to respond to these restrictions.
"It is good to be persecuted." says Ethiopian Church leader
Six members of the administrative committee of an Ethiopian Orthodox Church (EOC) in Kilto, 180 km south of Addis Abbaba have been sentenced to between five years and almost nine years in prison. The court found them guilty of found guilty of inciting inciting public disturbance, destroying public trust in government officials and spreading hatred.
They were tried after writing a letter to the national leaders of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church listing the persecution they have been facing. According to them these persecutions included:
- discrimination in job opportunities
- unfair dismissal from jobs
- unjustly negative feedback on job performance
- burning of EOC church buildings
- physical attacks
- threats against their lives.
The men copied their letter to various government institutions, including the office of the Prime Minister They also said their situation had become unbearable and likened it to the circumstances in Libya where so-called Islamic State (IS) members in April made a video while executing EOC members and circulated it on the web.
The 6 men have since been transferred to prison in Worabe. The leader of the regional EOC diocese has indicated that they will appeal the verdict, but also said, "Imprisonment is common in Christianity, and it is good to be persecuted."
Ethiopia ranks 22 on Open Doors 2015 World Watch persecution index. For many years, the EOC has been persecuting Christians who left their ranks to join (mostly) non-traditional Protestant churches, or Christians who joined the renewal movements within the EOC. However, along with members of these non-traditional protestant churches the church has become increasingly vulnerable to pressure on all spheres from Muslim extremism in eastern, western and these south-central parts of the country where Muslims constitute the majority.