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HomeEthiopian NewsSystemic pressure on Ethiopian Orthodox Church mounting

Systemic pressure on Ethiopian Orthodox Church mounting

The latest manifestation is Addis Ababa Mayor’s remark on Meskel Square, whose legal ownership belongs to Ethiopian Orthodox Church  

Ethiopian Orthodox Church
Ethiopian Orthodox Holy Synod ( Photo : file. Source – EOTC TV )


The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church continues to face what appears to be an orchestrated systemic pressure from Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s Prosperity Party. 

The latest pressure manifested itself in a rather melodramatic effort on the part of Addis Ababa city Administration with the aim to make the Ethiopian Orthodox Church appear irrational about its claims in the city and its relation with government authorities.

January (Tir in Amharic) is full of religious events  which reveal the continuation of government provocation on the Ethiopian Church. Earlier in the month, the church followers were tear-gassed  in St. Estifanos Church, which is adjacent to Meskel Square in the Capital, when Addis Ababa city administration ordered police to take forceful measures while the laity were practising worshipping. 

Days later, Oromia region police fired and hosted three members of the church during a solemn epiphany procession when the replica of the Ark of the Covenant was on its way back to Woybela Mariam Church altar in the outskirts of Addis Ababa.  Ten others were wounded. Oromia police authorities fired at the crowd on grounds that people were wearing cultural dresses with Ethiopian flag colours (rather sounds ludicrous, but the information is verified from multiple sources). 

And then comes Adanech Abiebie’s, “elected” mayor of Addis Ababa, remark about Meskel Square over which the Ethiopian orthodox Church has ownership rights. 

A protestant pastor, Zelalem, organised a fundraising party at Meskel Square under the guise of  supporting people affected by the war. The Ethiopian Church was not consulted about it. Many say it could have been organised elsewhere if the issue was really about supporting  those impacted by the war. 

Worse, Adanech Abiebie appeared on stage at the fundraising party and made what appears to be, in fact it is clearly a politicised remark against Ethiopian church for many, provocative remarks that challenges Ethiopian Orthodox Church right’s over Meskel Square where the Ethiopian Orthodox Church celebrates Meskel (a religious festival commemorating the finding of the true cross on the Lord Jesus Christ was crucified).  

She said,to the applause of protestant crowds that showed up at Meskel Square for the event, that Meskel Square belongs to all Addis Ababans as it was renovated by taxpayers money, and it also belongs to all Ethiopians. There is an account that paints Meskel Square as a private property of a devout Ethiopian Orthodox Church follower who transferred it to the Church as inheritance. It was nationalised during the Ethiopian revolution in the 1970s, but the Ethiopian church recovered it (along many other confiscated church property in the city) after Colonel Mengistu Hailemariam’s government was overthrown in 1991. 

Another Protestant pastor by the name Benyam opposed what he thought was unnecessarily antagonising the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, and criticised the pastor who organised the event and the Mayor’s office for allowing the event to happen at Meskel Square.  He also gave testimonial that it belongs to Ethiopian Orthodox Church. But he was thrown in jail after his remark. 

The stories above are just what happened this month. Concerned about the never ending pressure, the Holy Synod of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church sent a letter to Addis Ababa mayor inviting her for a meeting at the patriarchate where the Holy Synod meets. The Mayor sent, according to a report on Adebabay Media which was aired on February 3 (It has discussed the issue in depth highlighting organised structural attacks), a messenger to the patriarchate saying that she is ready to meet with them but not at the patriarchate.  She reportedly mentioned security concerns. 

She wanted the meeting to be at the Sheraton Addis, but the Holy Synod meetings do take place only at the patriarchate for religious reasons. And that is where it gets melodramatic. The Mayor and her staff showed up at Sheraton without waiting for the response from the Holy Synod.  Hours later, the Mayor’s office and Addis Ababa Prosperity Party shared on their social media pages saying that representatives of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church did not show up.  

The development has become a talking point among Ethiopians on social media. And many tend to think that Adanech Abiebie was just a tool for a systematic and organised attack on the Ethiopian Church. 

The Ethiopian Church has been targeted by ideologically motivated ethnic nationalists, including Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF),  as part of the effort to weaken it, and the country too. 

While some give Abiy Ahmed’s government a credit for “uniting the two synods,” it is evident that the attack against the Ethiopian Orthodox Church has become more orchestrated and intensified. Dozens  of the church followers had been killed in Oromia, Somali and Southern Ethiopia. Churches burned and properties of Ethiopian church followers burned. 

The Church has not officially responded, but the increasing administrative, structural and politically motivated attack on the Ethiopian Orthodox church seems to have created disenchantment with Abiy Ahmed’s government. 

Some fear that there could be external powers involved with the aim to impose “Prosperity Gospel”  as a form of government favoured religion in Ethiopia. 

What is evident is that the structural attack on the Ethiopian Orthodox church is real. The church is one of the most studied institutions in Ethiopia by researchers from the Western world.

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  1. Well there you go with the same old tyrant EPRDF foolish game against the Majority Religion. PP picked a Very dangerous path.

    Orthodox is under attack by PP/EPRDF. Since the Communist Derg who do not believe in God until PP, the sympathizer of Sebhat Nega who boasted about breaking the back of Orthodox, Orthodox Christians are systematically excluded from government key positions in every places, kebelles and every important employments.
    Adanech Abebe pick employees from her church contact. Deliberately she pick Pente or none Orthodox although almost 70% or the majority of Ethiopians are Orthodox Christians versus<1% Pente!!!
    This ugly plot is supported by Abiy and PP. Ignorant Adanech who lacks knowledge of the first religion of Africa with 2000 yeas old history wouldn't have said what is never expected from a big city Mayor without getting green light from Abiy. Abiy didn't not condemned her hubris ugly speech.
    Adanech and PP toys be will be gone soon but Orthodox Christianity is there to say FOREVER!!! Amen.

    Orthodox Christians stand together and get what's rightfully yours! Never Compromise Never allow anyone touching your religion.

  2. I don’t get this..I it all about power contention or influence I guess. but not for either for public or religious interest. How any religius organization can claim being the sole ownership over a whole open and untaxble public space ? Ok , even if they claim why not share with other faith organizations and public évents? I thought also that this public space was nationalized long ago by previous régimes for the général public good and interest regardless

  3. Plainview
    There is no or will never be a power without respecting and the representation of Orthodox Christianity.
    Before coming to your own conclusion it is very important to have deep and complex knowledge about the 2000 years old and the very first Orthodox Christian religion faith and values. Orthodox religion is not exceptional when it comes to owning properties and wealth. It is like huge organization with many people, expenses and responsibilities.

    ****** For Example if you take the Catholic Church, Vatican City officially the Vatican City State is an independent city-state and enclave located within Rome, Italy. *****
    Unlike in Ethiopia, no person or other religion tries to undermine, steal or create any problem except respecting and accepting the Church’s faith, value and resources.
    At the same time No Christian or any other Non Muslim religion dares to go to Saudi Arabia and ask to give speech or prayer anywhere. Because the answer will be definitely strong No followed by death punishment. So why keep bothering our Orthodox Christian faithful and religion ?

  4. So so much ignorance and hate against Orthodox Church and religion has played a very negative and damaging role during and after the Communist Derg who does not believe in any religion that enriched themselves and their party members with stolen money, wealth and properties in the name of nationalization to justify the theft and its lust for money . It used brutality to steal from the law abiding hard working and very intelligent people.

    The same with Woyane/EPRDF, where the Orthodox Christian religion, Popes, Monks, Priest, and worshippers were subjected to harsh treatments, murders, imprisonments and destruction because they were feared to create unity and peace among people which is the biggest threat to TPLF divide and conquer evil agenda.
    PP is the same as EPRDF with the same hate fore Orthodox Christian religion. One simply can look at the make up of PP members, and government employments from top to bottom which has marginalized and not included 70% of the Orthodox followers.

    Abiy and PP are faced with huge problem coming from the very Majority of Ethiopians because people have paid attention to ever detail and will not stop to get what they deserve. Leave Orthodox Christianity alone to Orthodox Christians!!!
    All the burning of Orthodox Churches and killings of its people including Oromos, Gurages, Southerns, Amharas and so on in Oromia is part of the plot to diminish the respect and destroy the religion because it is the majority of Ethiopian religion.

  5. From NAMA or ABEN Amhara movement, Yusuf Ibrahim and Gashaw are useless sell outs that are in line to get rich at the expense of Amhara corpse.

    They have abandoned their duty, representing Amhara people and interest. Such inept people are reasons for the suffering and assult of Amhara and Orthodox Christians that includes many other ethnic groups. Amhara must remove
    Yusuf and Gashaw from ABEN before they bring more damages.

    NAMA and Amhara children must clean out such vermin from NAMA or ABEN.

  6. A good reason the restore the Ethiopian Monarchy. If and when it is restored, they would decide the matter fairly, and all would respect that decision. Abiy would do well to make plans to step aside while he is at the height of his power, and let the monarchy again have a stabilizing position in Ethiopian society.


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