His Grace Abune Hezkeal criticized Ethiopian Federal government over failure to enforce law in the Oromo region of Ethiopia
Oromia region police harassment against spiritual fathers continued unabated. The Federal government is not acting on it.
Last week, Abune Estifanos, Archbishop of Jima Dioceses, and Abune Yared, Archbishop of Arsi Diocese, were harassed by Oromia region police and sent back to Addis Ababa. The former was detained at Jima airport as he was trying to head to the seat of his Dioceses.
Today, Abune Hezkeal, Archbishop of South West Ethiopia and Head of Sewasew Berhan St. Paul Theological College, was halted at Jima Airport as he attempted to head to his Diocese.
In an interview with Mahibere Kidusan Television, he said he had a conversation with the officers and was able to convince them to be allowed to head to Bonga, the seat of his diocese, but that did not last. He was turned back at a checkpoint in Jimma and was forced to turn back to Addis Ababa. He was made to stay at Jimma airport before he was sent back to Addis Ababa. He also revealed that those who were with him including the driver were beaten by Oromia police.
Police authorities reportedly told Grace Abune Hezkeal that it was an order from a higher authority in the region.
In the interview with MK TV, His Grace criticized the Ethiopian government for failing to maintain law and order. He insinuated that the lawlessness and anarchy in the Oromia region is a governance failure at the higher level.
South West Ethiopia Regional State Authorities’ reaction
The Communications Affairs Office of South West Ethiopia regional state expressed sadness that Grace Abune Hezkeal was harassed by security authorities and that people in the region are disenchanted about it.
The statement from the office said that Oromia region Jima zone senior authorities were contacted regarding the incident. Oromia security authorities made the claim that the incident happened without their knowledge.
The statement also cited authorities as saying that “it will be investigated and measure will be taken.” It is for the second time an incident like that to happen in less than a week. Abune Estifanos, Archbishop of Jimma zone, was detained at the airport by Oromia police and sent back to Addis Ababa.
The South West Ethiopia Region called on His Grace to return to his Dioceses and that the region will provide security.
The harassment against Bishops who are members of the Holy Synod, ministers and choirs serving in different churches in the Oromia region continued unabated.
The motive of prevalent harassment and attack appears to be a move to intimidate the public in the region not to support the decision from the Holy Synod and to intimidate ministries. Kesis ( could translate to ‘reverend’ in the Protestant religious tradition) Haregewoin Belay, an adored servant at Saint Michael Church in Shashement died in Hospital after he was clubbed by Oromia police and a politically motivated mob. He died in Hawassa Hospital.
Federal government Sees the development differently
The Federal government, first through a thirty-eight minute televised speech from the prime minister and then through an official statement via the Government Communications Services Ministry, announced its stand that the issue is something that could be resolved through negotiation between “the two groups.”
The Ethiopian Church position is that there is no such thing as “two groups.”
The Holy Synod excommunicated three bishops who broke away to form an ethnic-based patriarchate in the Oromia region and the 26 new “bishops” that are the illegal group, as it is called widely. The Holy Synod left a repentance door ajar – as in the religious tradition of the church – but did not recognize it as a group or it is not seeing the incident as a schism within the Orthodox Church.
On the other hand, the Church has ordered three days of fasting and prayer which is expected to end on Wednesday. In these days, the laity is asked to dress in black and churches are also covered in black as a form of mourning the state-backed attack on one of the oldest churches.
The Church demanded the government stop interfering in the affairs of the church and protect the rights and properties of the church. If the government is not responding to it by February 12, the church is staging a nationwide and worldwide protest.
The Ethiopian Prime Minister, who met with Pope Francis in the Vatican when he visited Italy this week, demonstrated adamancy to apologize to the church. His latest remark on the development in the church further eroded his political support base both in the Oromo region and other parts of Ethiopia.
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