Ethiopian Christians march in Addis Ababa as police shooting victims laid to rest

A day after two followers of Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahdo Church followers were shot to death by riot police while protesting demolition of church, Tens of thousands of faithfuls marched in the streets of Addis Ababa

February 6, 2020

On the night of February 4, the Federal riot police shot and killed two young men, Mikiyas Fanos and Million Denberu, in 22 vicinity of Addis Ababa as they were chanting religious songs with estimated thousands of followers of the Church.

They were killed around 1 a.m. in the morning when they resisted the demolition of the Church. Another young man who is identified as Abraham died in Yekatit 12 hospital on Thursday.

Funerals of those who were killed on Wednesday took place on Thursday in the presence of Ethiopian Orthodox Church Patriarch, Abune Mathias, and several other bishops.

Tens of thousands of Ethiopian Orthodox Church followers turned out to the church service at Bole Medhanialem Church. They then marched to Gerji St. George Church, where the funeral took place.

They were carrying the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church flag and the flag the Ethiopian government banned.

Ethiopian Christians
Coffins of Mikiyas and Million at Bole Medhaniam Church. Photo : Social Media

Victims of the police shooting were given service for martyrdom. The patriarch himself led the prayer service in the tradition of the Ethiopian Church.

On Wednesday, Patriarch Abune Mathias issued a statement calling for the government to investigate the killings and bring perpetrators to justice.

A fenced place, for decades, for church use with a small Church on it triggered apparent controversy between followers of the Ethiopian Church (and the Church) on the one hand and Addis Ababa City Administration on the other.

Riot police arrived in the church compound overnight to give support for those who were tasked to demolish the Church. Hundreds of thousands of faithful Ethiopian Orthodox Church followers started to chant songs as an expression of resistance to the demolition.

That is when the riot police opened fire and shot three people.

Two, whose names are mentioned above, died on the scene but their bodies were taken to Yekatit 12 hospital. There were reports that riot police also fired tear gas towards elders.

Followers of the Church and some preachers are expressing disenchantment that the government is discriminating against one of the oldest Orthodox churches in the entire world. They say that all levels of government are favoring followers of other religions while putting so much pressure on Ethiopian churches. The Church has been under immense pressure, especially in the Oromo region of Ethiopia. Followers have been killed at different times. Churches burned.

Hours after the incident that claimed three lives on Wednesday this week, Addis Ababa Mayor had a press conference. He claimed that his administration “closely works with the church.” For him, the incident was a sort of conspiracy to create a rift between the church and Addis Ababa City Administration.

He gave the impression that he did not ask for the deployment of riot police in the middle of the night. Those who ordered it would be held responsible for it, he said.

Seven people are detained, including unspecified government officials, and an investigation is underway.

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