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News: Ethiopian Orthodox Church pleads for peace amidst escalating violence against believers

His Holiness Abune Mathias I, Patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church (right), and His Holiness Abune Pertos, Head of the Holy Synod Secretariat, delivered the statement today (Photo: EOTC)

Addis Abeba – The Permanent Synod of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church issued a statement today, expressing deep concerns over the persistent attacks on Orthodox Christians in different regions. The Holy Synod has called for an immediate cessation of violence, urging all parties involved to take immediate action.

The Holy Synod reported that armed assailants forcibly evicted 36 worshippers from their homes and subsequently killed them during attacks on churches in the Oromai region, specifically in the Shirka district of the Arsi Zone. The affected churches include Sole Mikael, Digelo Maryam, and Debre Mitmak Maryam. The victims ranged from elderly individuals at 70 years old to infants as young as 28 days.

Furthermore, 28 Orthodox Christians, comprising seven women and twenty-one men, were abducted from their residences and murdered in the Soledigelu and Tijolebu kebeles, according to the Synod.

In subsequent attacks in the same area, five more individuals lost their lives at Digelo Maryam Church. Furthermore, additional violence broke out as Orthodox followers were making their way back from the Feast of the Virgin Mary celebration in Robe.

The Holy Synod reports that, in addition to the situation in Oromia, believers in the Amhara region are also facing attacks. In the Gondar Zone of the Amhara region, one clergy member associated with the Central Gondar Diocese was killed under suspicious circumstances on 9 December 2023.  A teacher named Fisha Alemene was also stoned to death by an unknown assailant. Later that evening, unidentified armed gunmen assassinated Bekuretguhan Zereadawit Haileu, a church leader from the Central Gondar Diocese.

The Holy Synod, in its statement, strongly condemned the violence and called for an immediate end to the attacks on innocent civilians and religious institutions. Additionally, it urged authorities at all levels to provide security guarantees, bring perpetrators to justice, and implement preventative measures to avoid further conflict.

The Permamant Synod also cautioned that Ethiopia’s most significant cultural sites, including historic churches and monasteries, are now at risk due to the ongoing violence and instability. The Synod’s statement expressed concern, stating, “In a country with a government and constitution, without foreign invaders and cross-border enemies, the destruction we inflict upon each other, religious hatred, the killing of innocent lives, and the destruction of the country’s wealth are alarming.”

The Church urged all conflicting parties to immediately halt hostilities and engage in open dialogue. In the future, the Holy Synod suggested enhancing early warning systems, safeguarding the basic rights of every citizen regardless of faith, and ensuring that perpetrators of violence are held accountable through a fair legal process. AS

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