News: Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church releases grim report on recent attacks on parishioners

Photo: DW/S. Muche

By Medihane Ekubamichael

Addis Abeba, August 26/2020 – In a statement released today by the Holy Synod of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church (EOTC), the Church detailed a grim report on attacks against its followers in Oromia regional state in the wake of the June 29 assassination of popular Oromo artist Haacaaluu Hundessaa.    

The statement was released following a report by a fact finding team comprising 260 individuals including bishops, elders, spiritual associations and media outlets, who were dispatched to affected areas. The team covered 25 woredas in six dioceses in Oromia regional state, particularly in Bale and West Arsi zones.

According to the report, in attacks which lasted for three days, 67 Christians “were brutally beaten, chopped with machetes, stabbed with spear, cut down with scythes, beaten with bats and stoned to death.” The statement also said victims’ corpses were dragged through the streets [and] their body parts, which had been lying around for days, became food for animals.”

It also added that “38 parishioners were permanently (severely injured), and 29 parishioners were hurt with minor injuries. In addition more than 7,000 parishioners, were displaced and have been subjected to various psychological crises.” Initial findings estimate they lost “more than five billion birr worth of property through looting and fire.”

Although on July 1st the Permanent Synod issued a statement of condolence up on news of the coordinated attack, this is the first such report to be issued by the Synod. “The church has turned to God in sorrow and prayer at home and abroad; the Church waited patiently, wondering if the government would keep their promise as they vowed saying “We will not tolerate vandals; we give justice, we will repay the injured.” However, the Church did not see them fulfill their responsibility to protect and protect citizens, prevent justice, and compensate victims.”

The Church said the Permanent Synod has discussed the issue and directed that a general committee to be set up in the archdiocese to study the damage. Accordingly, a committee was set up to assist the victims on a temporary basis.

The statement was careful in not directly blaming the attacks as carried out by government agents, but said that “religious and ethnic extremists loyal to the government structure carried out a strategic and barbaric attack on the victims”, according to the report of the Prime Committee’s delegation, which visited the victims and visited the affected areas and thus, “confirmed the primary targets to be Orthodox Christians.”

The relentless attacks on the church as of late were not only ““transitional” but also a “cleansing” of orthodox activities based on erroneous ideologies and geo-political backgrounds. Our church recognizes that it is becoming clearer over time; our church already knows that if left unchecked, it could lead to a worse outcome.”

Recognizing the seriousness of the attack in this way, the Prime Committee is working on a strategy to reorganize its mission in a short period of time, in order to provide immediate assistance to the victims and to establish them in a sustainable manner, the Church said, adding work was underway “to identify the extent of the damage on an individual basis, and as a result, assistance will be provided directly to the victims and their families. It also facilitates the establishment of sustainability.”

The Holy Synod released seven point resolution on the “urgent steps to be taken by the government”. The Church also urged the federal and state governments to fulfill their constitutional duty to prevent, compensate, and rehabilitate victims of this “religious persecution.”

Below is the translation of the seven point resolution:

  1. In the report and evidence, we have proved that victims are at high risk of being subjected to systematic and horrific religious persecution. It was observed that their condition at the time made them more susceptible to coronavirus and other infectious diseases. Therefore, our Church urges the Oromia National Regional State and the Federal Government to immediately ensure the safety and security of Orthodox Ethiopians by protecting their human and civil rights to life and property.
  2. The Church urges the government to ensure justice to prevail by prosecuting those who planned, carried out, and coordinated the attack, as well as responsible government bodies who ignored the situation and let attackers takeover. In this regard, the Church is closely following and appreciating the government’s efforts to enforce the law, even after the attack. The Church is ready to support this endeavor to come to success.
  3. The Church urges the release of innocent civilians who have no participation in the attack, and yet are being tortured for their Orthodoxy.
  4. Some government officials and political parties to refrain from mocking our grievances by attacking the martyrs and abusing them for party and political gains. The church hereby urges the government to take appropriate action to alleviate the situation.
  5. During and after the June attacks, systematic influences and attacks on church and parishioners in some areas of Oromia and other regions were increasing in type and magnitude. While many regional governments had shown their willingness to negotiate and resolve issues and have been able to curb the attacks and its effects to some extent, on the other hand, especially the current administration of the Oromia Regional State has repeatedly regretted but rejected our request for a joint solution. It is understandable that in some dioceses in the region, the illegal group banned by the Holy Synod, from violating the legal rights of the Church to daring its administrative structure, is due to the regional government’s negligence in responding to Church demands. Therefore, we believe there is no solution other than working together to cure yesterday’s problem, and to prevent tomorrow’s worst. Therefore, our church strongly urges the regional government to accept our request and be ready to work together.
  6. Earlier on 2012 EC, our church urged the government to investigate and prosecute the atrocities committed against 97 citizens and parishioners in one day, from the killings and robberies that took place during the month of October and the January Epiphany celebrations, in various parts of the country. The church demands the result of the investigation to be released to public
  7. Our Holy Church deserves to be respected and loved by all Ethiopians for its contribution to national peace and unity, its sacred culture and its multifaceted values. We believe that the Church is the mother of all and all is indebted to Her, for it is unthinkable that there will be an ungrateful Ethiopian for all Her grace and blessings.
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