Updated on January 30, 2023 at 12:29 A.M.
The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church has been under increasing repression for decades. It got worse especially after Abiy Ahmed took power as Prime Minister in 2018. Although Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed is said to be faithful to Prosperity Gospel, he initially appeared to be a rather friendly Prime Minister to the Ethiopian Church. He is even credited with “reuniting” two patriarchates (based in the country and abroad) , the origin of which happened about thirty years ago because the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) led political repression and threats on the life of the 4th patriarch, His Holiness the late Abune Merkorios.
Despite Abiy Ahmed’s stated “reverence” towards the Ethiopian Church, the attack got worse over the past four years. From politically motivated radical ethnic nationalist rampage that massacred followers of the church and slaughtered priests and deacons to the burning of dozens of churches – the church endured it all.
Besides, it has been facing administrative discrimination to the point that it was even restricted not to celebrate religious holidays in the venues where it used to celebrate for generations. The mob attack and government backed systemic attack has happened in Oromia, Sidama, Somali and Benishangul Gumuz – among other areas.
When Hachalu Hundessa was assassinated in Addis Ababa ( he was himself a follower of the Ethiopian Church according to local reports that cited the church sources), hundreds of the Orthodox Church followers were massacred in the Oromia region despite his assassination had nothing to do, directly or indirectly, with the Church. The properties of the followers of the Ethiopian Church were burned and vandalized.
His Holiness Abune Mathias has been pleading, at times in tears, for the attack against the Church to end but to no avail.
There seems to be even a tendency, on the part of those who consider themselves as the mightiest at this point in time, for the Ethiopian Orthodox Church to accept the ethnic Oromo indigenous traditional belief – Irrechha- as a sacred one. The Ethiopian Church does not have a duty to do so.
Now the move to weaken the church is happening mostly from within. Last week, three Bishops of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, who have been clandestinely working to break up the unity of the church by establishing an ethnic-based patriarchate in the Oromo region of Ethiopia, at least for a little over a month based on the testimony of one of the episcopus who was appointed illegally as Bishop, officially declared that they have ordained 26 Bishops.
They did so in a rural church about five kilometers from Woliso town, in the Oromia region of Ethiopia. The church they used belongs to the Ethiopian church. The ordination itself did have protection by government securities. The laity in the nearby area who rushed to the place of ordination to halt the procession were reportedly attacked by security forces.
The situation has strengthened the speculation that the radical ethnic nationalist forces within the government structure (Usually when Christians , they are mostly from protestant churches) are supporting the move to weaken the church from within. A week or so before the three Bishops declare a new ordination – which the Holy Synod called Illegal – Jonathan ( a protestant pastor and close confidant of the Prime Minister from whom he received a financial award for service) made an announcement while preaching saying that he saw ” a big rock breaking into two pieces.” About three weeks before that, the same Protestant Pastor attacked the church’s creed as it relates to the Virgin St. Mary as a “cult.” Other protestant Church leaders and Catholic leaders headed to the Patriarchate of the Ethiopian Church in a gesture of apology on behalf of the pastor. They stated that they have a deferential attitude to the Ethiopian church and that it should not be insulted.
His Holiness Abune Mathias summoned on Bishops of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church in the country and abroad to the patriarchate for an emergency meeting on the day the Ethiopian Church learned about illegal ordination in Woliso. In two days tie, the Holy Synod excommunicated the three Bishops and stripped their ecclesiastical ranks in all their forms after days of prayer and consultation. It also called upon the government to discharge its responsibility to maintain peace and order.
What happened was the opposite. Aba Tsegazeab, an episcopus who was among the 26 ordained bishops, apologized to the Ethiopian Church just a day before the Holy Synod passed the decision. This week, he was abducted and detained for over a day. And yesterday, Oromia region security authorities arrested his eminence Ahune Estifanos in Jimma as he was returning from the Holy Synod meeting. He was traveling to Jimma with several Bishops for the inauguration of a new St. Mary church. The Bishops were turned back at Addis Ababa Airport. Abune Estifanos himself was arrested in Jimma and the inauguration of the new church had to be postponed.
In the face of all these brazen attacks against the Ethiopian Church and hassling religious leaders, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed who claimed to revere the Ethiopian Church did not even remark about it.
The development that brought about much grief to the followers of Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church in the country and abroad was not covered by any one of the public funded media outlets in the country.
An increasing number of Ethiopians who belong to the faith seem to be convinced that the pressure and attack on the Ethiopian Church are state-backed and it does seem to be that way. At least the government has the duty to respect the right to worship and to protect citizens from being attacked because of religious identity.
The situation seems to be concerning for the church. His Holiness Abune Mathias on Sunday made another appeal for the government to be vigilant to avoid bloodshed in the country.
There is no legal or political ground for the government to support the attack and or pressure against the Ethiopian Church through any form of action or inaction.
To share information or for submission, send e-mail to email@example.com
Telegram Channel : t.me/borkena