By Firaol Bersisa @FiraolBer
Addis Abeba – The Hadiya and Silte Zone Diocese Secretariat issues a statement last night detailing damages against churches and Christians in the Silte Zone, Southern Nations, Nationalities and People’s (SNNP) regional state. Similarly, the regional state government warned this morning that it will not tolerate attacks by “extremist forces”
using religion as pretext.
The Hadiya and Silte Zone Diocese Secretariat said that on 28April, “radicals from the Muslim community” proceeded to St. Rufael church in Warabe city chanting slogans shortly after conducting Salat. “After they got to the church, they dismantled the dome and subsequently removed sacred materials from the church, which they burned and eventually destroyed the entire church,” the Diocese Secretariat in the letters.
Furthermore, the letter details that the perpetrators have assaulted “the guards and clergy of the church after which they went across town targeting hotels owned by Christians. This has caused a deterioration of relations between Christians and Muslims in the Silte Zone as well as generated a perversion of violence in neighboring localities.”
“After they got to the church, they dismantled the dome and subsequently removed sacred materials from the church, which they burned and eventually destroyed the entire church,”
The violence has expanded and caused the complete destruction of the Sankura St. Gabriel church, the letter said, and expressed that the Diocese Secretariat is “deeply saddened that no zonal forces were able to intervene and put a halt to the violence. The diocese condemns in the strongest terms these acts of violence.”
It urged the federal and regional authorities allow for the clergy and laity injured in the attacks to gain access to medical assistance in neighboring zones and the wider regional state; arrange for immediate assistance and protection for Christians and churches, who are under extreme pressure,in all the woredas of the Silte Zone and investigate and bring to justice all the perpetrators.
Similarly, in a statement released today, the SNNPR government accused forces :displeased with the national changes and dislodged from their private interests” of working day and night to disrupt the peace of the people. The regional government also warned that it will not tolerate attacks by “extremist forces” using “religion as pretext.”
The statement said that the regional government has been coordinating with the people and taking the necessary legal measures to resolve the different security problems that erupted across the region. It, however, stressed that all citizens should be cognizant that the recent conflict and attacks in some areas using religious pretenses are of no gain to anyone. ‘The people have the responsibility not only to condemn such acts but also defend against them.’ It added.
The statement did not mention the “extremist forces” it accused of but said they were “engaged in ethno-national extremism” who have “extended their campaign to the spheres of religion.”
The regional government confirmed the attacks in Warabe city, and said it will negatively impact the long-running [religious] coexistence. The regional state government vowed to to bring the perpetrators who committed the attacks against religious establishments and innocent civilians, and said it will take the necessary legal measures against the ringleaders connected with the attacks.
The region called for the youth to refrain from being instruments of “anti-peace forces for evil deeds” and defend the peoples’ unity. It also urged religious figures, elders and prominent personalities to condemn such plots by anti-peace elements and maintain the peace and security within their localities. AS