Ethiopian PM sends condolences to Orthodox Church after 15 priests killed

August 14, 2018
By World Watch Monitor

Ethiopia’s prime minister visited the leader of the country’s Orthodox Church on Saturday to express his condolences after 15 priests were killed and ten Orthodox churches damaged in the eastern Somali region last week.

Among the priests killed were Rev. Kidane Mariam Nibretu, Rev. Yared Hibu, Father Gebiremariam Asfaw, and Abreham Tigabu, a local source told World Watch Monitor, adding that four of the 15 priests were found burned together.

Nine evangelical churches were also vandalised or looted. Although state media reported the deaths of at least 30 people, according to local sources the number could be as high as 50.

Orthodox parishes in the regional capital, Jijiga, are supporting more than 20,000 displaced Ethiopians, sources close to the Tewahedo Orthodox Church told Catholic news agency Fides.

Voice of America reported that nearly one million people have been displaced since April as part of an ethnic conflict between Oromo and Somali people that has been going on for years.

Earlier today, 40 people were killed when armed men, allegedly members of the Somali region’s paramilitary Liyou forces, carried out cross border-attacks in Oromia’s East Hararghe district, according to Al-Jazeera.

New man in charge

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has moved quickly to implement a reformist vision for the country since he came to power in April on the back of a revolt against the old regime, which was largely controlled by a small group of former liberation fighters, who had been ruling the country since 1991.

Ahmed has fired a number of officials and generals accused of corruption, curbing the military’s power and lifting government monopolies on key industries, to dismantle the grip on power by the Tigrinya People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).

His agenda created tension with the Somali Regional President Abdi Illey, who resigned last week after federal forces stopped his paramilitary Liyou forces from entering Dire Dawa, a federal city outside of the Somali Region’s jurisdiction.

Illey flew to Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa, where he was reportedly arrested. The former president was known to govern the region with an iron fist, using political positions and his paramilitary Liyou police to commit widespread human rights abuses.

On Sunday (12 August) the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF), a rebel groups which has been fighting for self-determination for the Somali Region for years, declared a unilateral ceasefire. The group said it had made the decision in response to prime minister Ahmed’s call for peace and the offer of talks towards a negotiated settlement.

Ahmed’s new political approach has also led to the historic reconciliation with neighbour and long-time foe Eritrea. Eritrea’s leader, Isaias Afwerki, is ethnically Tigrayan but after the decades-long war and Ethiopia’s occupation of the Eritrean border, he supports Ahmed in seeking to curb the power of the TPLF.

‘Tensions bubbling under the surface’

Eritrea is 6th and Ethiopia 29th on Open Doors International’s 2018 World Watch List of the 50 countries in which it is most difficult to live as a Christian.

Ethiopia’s Protestant communities face challenges from fanatical elements in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, and, where ethnicity and Islam are interconnected, Christians can experience hostility from family and community.

In mid-June, 20 Christians were killed in the Bale Goba area of Oromia, west of the Somali region. Although some observers blamed TPLF sympathisers, a local source told World Watch Monitor that it took place after Christians opposed the installation of a monument for a prominent Muslim leader in the area.

Some locals pinned the blame on the government, saying they were warning Christians against opposing such moves in future.

“Similar tensions are bubbling under the surface in other parts of Oromia,” said World Watch Monitor’s source. “We have even heard of places where Muslims had asked Christians to vacate the area. And though this call is veiled as ethnic rivalry by some media and observers, it is at its very core a religious matter.”

Tourists From 5 Nations Victims in Ethiopia Attack

By LUC VAN KEMENADE Associated Press
ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia January 18, 2012 (AP)

Gunmen in Ethiopia's arid north attacked a group of European tourists traveling in one of the world's lowest and hottest regions, killing five, wounding two and kidnapping two, an Ethiopian official said Wednesday.

Ethiopia called the attack "an act of open terrorism" and said the gunmen came from neighboring Eritrea and attacked the tourist group before dawn on Tuesday. Three Ethiopians were also taken hostage. Eritrea denied it was involved.

Austrian, Belgian, German, Hungarian and Italian nationals were among those in the tourist group, Ethiopian Communications Minister Bereket Simon said.

Two Germans, two Hungarians and an Austrian were among the five killed, according to an Interpol report cited by the spokesman for Hungary's prime minister. Two Belgians were seriously hurt and two Italians escaped unharmed, the report said. Two Germans were kidnapped.

Austria's foreign ministry confirmed that an Austrian man from the province of Upper Austria was among the five dead. Germany's foreign minister also confirmed two German deaths. Germany's foreign minister said 12 other people were flown to safety by helicopter.

Those wounded in the attack arrived in Addis Ababa Wednesday evening, where they were met by embassy personnel. A British diplomat at the airport said it was possible one British tourist was among the group attacked.

One victim had to be moved in a wheelchair. Others covered their faces to avoid being photographed by journalists. A diplomat said that the victims did not want to make any statements to the media and said that they have had "a very hard time."

Ethiopia offered its condolences to the families of victims and said it would "do everything possible to try and get those taken prisoner released as soon as possible," a government statement said. "It is already clear that the attack was carried out with the direct involvement of the Eritrean Government. There is a fear that the people who have been kidnapped might be taken across the border into Eritrea."

Ethiopia said it suspects the attack was linked to an upcoming African Union summit in Addis Ababa later this month. It said the attack shows that the international community "must now get serious about the destabilizing role of the Eritrean regime in the region."

The tourists were visiting a volcanic region in Ethiopia's northern Afar region, which lies below sea level and is known for its intense heat and picturesque salt flats.

Some of the tourists appeared to be traveling with Addis Ababa-based Green Land Tours and Travel, according to three people in Ethiopia's capital, all of whom asked not to be identified because the information hadn't yet been made public.

Green Land Tours and Travel offers a 15-day travel package to the Afar region, which include visits to watch salt extraction from salt lakes and a trek around a volcano that spouts lava pools.

Some of the tourists on the trip also appear to have been booked by a company in Germany called Diamir, which posted a statement on its website saying that it deeply regrets what happened. Diamir said it had offered the Ethiopia trip several times a year since 2006.

"Up until the current incident, Diamir had no indications that the security of guests could be in question in the region," it said, adding that there was no German travel warning in place for Ethiopia or parts of it at the time of the incident.

Bereket said that "some groups trained and armed by the Eritrean government" attacked the tourists about 20 to 25 kilometers (12 to 15 miles) from the Eritrean border.

Eritrea's ambassador to the African Union, Girma Asmerom, said Ethiopia's allegations are an "absolute lie" and that the attack is an internal Ethiopian matter.

Ethiopia and Eritrea fought a border war from 1998 to 2000,claiming the lives of about 80,000 people. Tension between the neighboring East African countries rose last year when a U.N. report claimed that Eritrea was behind a plot to attack an African Union summit in Ethiopia.       

Austrian Foreign Ministry spokesman Peter Launsky-Tiefenthal said there was an Austrian Foreign Ministry travel warning in effect for the region since 2007 "because of several incidents involving attacks on tourist groups ... in some case politically motivated in others criminally motivated."

In 2007, five Europeans and 13 Ethiopians were kidnapped in Afar. Ethiopia accused Eritrea of masterminding that kidnapping, but Eritrea blamed an Ethiopian rebel group. All of those hostages were released, though some of the Ethiopians were held for more than a month.

In 2008, Ethiopia foiled a kidnapping attempt on a group of 28 French tourists in the area.

"The problem is, there is no infrastructure in the area, no telephone lines, satellite phones barely work," Launsky-Tiefenthal said, comparing the remote area to "the surface of Mars."

Ethiopia Faces Threat from Wahabi Muslim Extremists

By Andualem Sisay

Wahabi Muslim extremists in Ethiopia are being engaged in underground violence and unrest instigation activities by abusing the freedom of religion and faith guaranteed by the constitution says, Ethiopian government official.

“We are not against their doctrine; what they are doing by organizing themselves underground is a crime against the constitution,” said Shiferaw Teklemariam, Minister of Federal Affairs.

The minister made the remark at a daylong workshop prepared for local journalists and public relation officers of the government at the Federal Police Headquarter here in Addis Ababa over the weekend. 

Wahabi Muslim extremists have been invading mosques in the country with causing violence that resulted in death and injuries of other non- Wahabi Muslims sect followers, according to the minister, who mentioned the crisis witnessed in Harar, Gimma, Wellega, Illubabor and Bale areas of the country over the past years. 

The group have been working in secrete to make Ethiopia a Muslim nation that will be ruled by Shriya law by abusing the rights of religion stated in the constitution of the country. “As such acts of Wahabi Muslim extremists will lead the country in chaos, the government is forced to intervene,” the minister said.  

According to the Ethiopian constitution government and religion are separate and one will not interfere into business of the other. While people are free to choose the religion they want to follow. In addition it also states that there will be no state religion in Ethiopia and all religions are equal. 

Contrary to this, the government has now found that the Wahabi Muslim extremists have been working underground to make Ethiopia a Muslim nation by violating the rights of other people to believe in what ever they want. 

“We have found evidences and pamphlets were publicly distributed during the month of Ramadan calling on the Muslim community to stand up against all non- Wahabi Muslims and other religion followers,” he said.  

Wahabi sect is a member of a strictly orthodox Sunni Muslim sect from Saudi Arabia. The doctrine strives to purify Islamic beliefs and rejects any innovation occurring after the 3rd century of Islam; "Osama bin Laden is said to be a Wahhabi Muslim".

Religion and Faith Director General at the Ministry, Meressa Reda on his part said: “At the moment our main duty is to save the innocent Muslims who being led to the traps of religious conflict in Ethiopia orchestrated by these Wahabi Muslim extremists”.  

Implementing Constitution without Rules 
From the public transport to streets, from government offices to universities, different religion extremists have been abusing the rights of people who also have the right not to follow any of these religions. 

The fact that Ethiopia has not yet put in place proclamations, rules and manuals on how to use freedom of religion and faith written on the constitution is mentioned as one of the reasons that allowed people to abuse these rights.

At the moment one there is no clear rule which areas are for preaching religion and what kinds of precautions has to be taken in order to avoid the peace of other citizens who do not belong to that specific religion.

There is no clear demarvcation between residence areas and noisy religious practices at any time of the day and night. If one generous person of a certain religion gives his home to the followers, they can automatically convert it to worshiping institutions violating the rights of other people who used to live peacefully. 

As a result most of the dominant religions in the country are engaged in underground zero sum intra and inter religion war. If one religion follower put a giant speaker on a four wheel drive car and disturbs the city with limitless volume, its competitor comes with a larger truck and speaker to annoy the city. 

There is no rule in place that will protect the peace and health of the people who are not interested in any religion. 

Some of the participants of the workshop also described most of these religious institutions as the most corrupt and failed institutions to serve even their followers properly. Many agree that if the institutions were properly managed at least the lives of the poor Ethiopians from whom they collect money could have been better today. 

Some people suggest that government has to approach these institutions and assist them in preparing and implementing transparent and accountable institution running guidelines by specifying clearly their role in poverty reduction in addition to the usual spiritual services they have been busy for centuries.  

As a result of conflicts within or between or among these religion extremists is resulting in unnecessary bloodsheds and burning of mosques and churches. Some people advice that the government has to use early warning and protection mechanisms before such conflicts manifest.

External Interference

Arab Wahabi missionaries, mainly from Saudi Arabia, continue to make inroads into the Ethiopian Muslim community, but are meeting increasing resistance in doing so, according to a recent US cable released by Wikileaks. The indigenous Muslim culture (mainly Sufi Muslim community) has come under attack since 9/11 by Wahabi missionaries engaging in what amounts to cultural imperialism against Ethiopian Islam.

“Prior to 9/11, there was little Wahabi proselytizing in Ethiopia.  As a result, Ethiopia's delicate Muslim/Christian balance and historic attitudes between the faith communities regarding tolerance and mutual respect are being challenged, thereby undermining U.S. interests in the region.  Sufi Muslim leaders want support from the U.S. to counter this pressure,” according to wikileaks.

The other part of US cable released August 30, 2011 stated that as part of the strategy of countering Wahabi influence through cultural programming the United States government has been doing different things in Ethiopia since 2006 to present. 
The report indicated that the Ambassador's Fund for Cultural Preservation (AFCP) of the US government has granted to restore the Sheikh Hussein Shrine in Bale.

“In addition, AFCP grant to restore the Teferi Mekonnen Palace in Harar (although the childhood home of Emperor Haile Selassie, the Palace now houses the City Museum, which is heavily focused on Muslim life in Harar,” stated the cable entitled ‘Countering Wahabi Influences in Ethiopia Through Cultural Programs’.

Besides, AFCP grant to restore the Muhammad Ali House in Addis Ababa, the home of a prominent Muslim merchant that reflects the heavy influence of Muslim merchants and trade with the Middle and Far East in the 19th century, according to Wikileaks.

“When well-considered and executed creatively, cultural programming can make a real difference in turning back Islamic extremism and turning public opinion against activists who seek to overturn the existing order and import a brand of Islam that breeds conflict through its corrosive teachings that run counter to more orthodox interpretations of the Koran,” Ambassador Yamamato concludes in his July 2009 report.

Thousands Of Christians Flee Deadly Violence In Ethiopia; Churches Burned

Wednesday, March 9, 2011 (10:00 pm)

Dozens of churches destroyed

130 people detained, official says

By BosNewsLife Africa Service

ADDIS ABABA, ETHIOPIA (BosNewsLife)-- Thousands of Christians are fleeing violence in western Ethiopia where Muslim extremists killed several Christians and burned dozens of churches, rights activists and officials said Wednesday March 9.

Advocacy group Barnabas Fund, which supports Christians in the Muslim-majority area, told BosNewsLife that 55 churches and dozens of homes are reported to have been torched in recent days near the city of Jimma, in western Oromia region, "with many more properties looted by the mob."

Ethiopian government spokesman Shimelis Kemal said in a radio interview that two Christians had been killed in the incidents in the town of Asendabo and surrounding areas and that police reinforcements had moved in to restore order.

"In Jimma area, some extremists and some fundamentalists have instigated some people to burn a few prayer places, praying places, and this has been investigated by police and those who are suspected to have set fire on those churches have been apprehended," he told the

Voice of America (VOA) network in an earlier interview.


Barnabas Fund said Wednesday, March 9, that three Christians had been killed. There was no immediate explanation for the discrepancy, but with tensions continuing the death toll was expected to rise.

"Attacks involving thousands of Islamists have continued, spreading systematically through five districts in the predominantly Muslim area," said International Christian Concern (ICC), another U.S. based rights group closely monitoring the situation.

Government officials said so far 130 suspects had been detained and charged with instigating religious hatred and violence.

ICC quoted a Christian leader as saying that the attacks were organized by members of Kwarej, a radical Islamic group that fights to establish an Islamic state in Ethiopia.

The Muslim attackers allegedly came from different parts of Ethiopia, including the Somali region. "It’s very sad that a radical Muslim group destabilizes the unity of Ethiopian Christians and Muslims. We are devastated by the attacks and we urge all concerned people to help us. We call upon Ethiopian officials to prevent similar attacks from happening in the future," the church leader reportedly said, apparently speaking on condition of anonymity because of security concerns.


The government has not yet confirmed the background of those detained.

Asendabo is a town located in an area that was the scene of violent attacks against Christians in 2006 when Muslims killed more than a dozen Christians and burned down several churches, ICC said.

Islamic radicals are fighting to establish an Islamic state in Christian majority Ethiopia. Unfortunately, the Christians have borne the brunt of the Islamic attacks," said ICC’s Regional Manager for Africa, Jonathan Racho told BosNewsLife in a statement.

"Christians will continue to be killed unless the government of Ethiopia starts taking serious measures to stop Islamists from carrying out similar attacks," Racho said, adding that his group has urged the international community to pressure Ethiopia's government to improve the situation.

The most recent census reportedly indicates that Ethiopia is about 60 percent Christian and 40 percent Muslim, though Muslims dispute the figures. (With reporting by BosNewsLife's Stefan J. Bos and reporters in the region).


Mennonite World Conference (MWC)
January 10, 2003

Violence Continues Against Christians in Ethiopia

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia — Christians in Ethiopia continue to be targets of violent acts in this country where Muslim and Eastern Orthodox religions are dominant. On December 29, 2002, a Meserete Kristos (Mennonite) Church (MKC) in Mekele was looted and burned. All its property was destroyed and one member at the church compound at the time was severely beaten.

Incidents earlier in the year included raiding the home of Christians in Abdurafi, a small village in the northwest. Two church leaders there were beaten, one needing hospitalization for 13 days. In Moyale, a town on the Kenyan border, two elderly MKC women suffered beatings. One, aged 65, spent 10 days in hospital and she sustains permanent disabilities. In Maychew, violent demonstrations led to the burning of all Christian churches there, including an MKC church. Its leader was imprisoned due to false accusations, and is still in prison, according to reports.

Fikru Zeleke, Evangelism and Missions secretary of the MKC, said that the hostility against Christians has escalated in the last year.

"Muslims in this country have targeted the evangelicals as number one enemy. The hostility is not limited to MKC. It embraces all active evangelical churches in the country," said Zeleke.

The Muslim religion is dominant in some parts of Ethiopia, ranging from 90 percent of the population in the southeast to nearly 100 percent in the Afar region. In the Tigray region in the north, 96 percent of the people are Ethiopian Orthodox.

According to Zeleke, these religions regard themselves as the only religions that have the right to expand their faith in the country and they target evangelicals who are engaged in aggressive mission efforts throughout the nation.

The MKC has 83 missionaries working mostly among unreached groups within Ethiopia as well as international workers in three African countries. The church, in partnership with Eastern Mennonite Missions in the U.S., plans to send two workers to Asia and is in the process of accepting into membership a church of East African immigrants based in the Middle East.

Zeleke said that MKC is asking Anabaptists around the world to pray for its evangelistic and mission efforts, especially in this difficult time of opposition.

— Ferne Burkhardt, News Editor

Brits warned against travel to Ethiopia

Last Modified: 3 Nov 2005
Source: ITN

The Foreign Office has urged British citizens against non-essential travel to Ethiopia.

At least 33 people have been killed and 150 wounded in three days of anti-government protests.

A Foreign Office statement said: "There have been further serious disturbances across the capital on 1 and 2 November 2005, resulting in a number of deaths.

"Opposition leaders have been arrested and further violence in Addis and other towns cannot be ruled out. We advise against non-essential travel to Ethiopia until the situation settles."

In Ethiopia's worst violence in months, security forces opened fire to disperse hundreds of demonstrators apparently heeding a call by the biggest opposition party for renewed protests against a May 15 poll it says was rigged.

Security forces were deployed to patrol the quiet streets of the capital where shops were shut to mark the Muslim Eid Al-Fitr festival.

Thousands of Muslims streamed to the main square in Addis Ababa for dawn prayers in a peaceful but brief gathering to celebrate the end of the Ramadan fasting period.

Merchant Hussein Aware said: "The ceremony is not as joyful as previous years. Many people did not come. We are very sad because of all this fighting."

The United States has condemned "cynical, deliberate" attempts to stoke violence in the capital.

Medical sources in two hospitals have said two people were shot dead during the third day of clashes between police and protesters.

A doctor said: "We have one person dead. He was 19 years old and hit in the chest."

Another doctor in the Black Lion hospital said a 60 year-old man was killed in unrest in an eastern suburb of Addis Ababa.


Rebels plan Ramadan attacks

02/09/2008 08:25 - (SA)  

Mogadishu - An Islamist militia commander said on Monday his fighters will intensify attacks against government and Ethiopian forces even during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Yusuf Mohamed Siad - allied to hardline cleric Hassan Dahir Aweys who is designated as a terrorist by the US - said the fighting is "in compliance with the guidance of our prophet Mohammed."

"We will double our attacks against the Ethiopians and their Somali government stooges even during the month of Ramadan until we root out the enemy of Allah from the country," he told reporters in Mogadishu.

Since their movement was ousted by a joint Ethiopia-Somali forces in early 2007, Islamist militias have waged a deadly insurgency against their rivals mainly in the capital.

The hardline Islamists have rejected a UN-sponsored truce.

Civilians have borne the heaviest brunt of the violence and at least 6 000 have died in the past year alone, many in Mogadishu.

Somalia has lacked an effective government since the 1991 ouster of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre, sparking a deadly power struggle that has defied numerous bids to restore stability in the Horn of Africa nation.