Weeks after Oromia regional government attacked the laities of the Ethiopian Church for daring to defend their church from being illegally seized by the renegade group, the church faced another attack this past Thursday.
This time it happened in St. George Church the heart of Addis Ababa which is just meters away from Emperor Menelik Statue where Ethiopians celebrate Adwa Victory.
It started as an attack on Ethiopians who gathered at Menelik Square for the celebration. Security forces fired unnecessarily, as the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission said, teargas against people who gathered for the celebration.
And then it threw teargas to the premises of St. George Church where the faithful were attending the Ark procession of St. George’s Day. The ceremony had to be halted after two teargases were thrown at the people on the church premise. One person died of suffocation from the tear gas and many were injured.
His Grace Abune Henok, Archbishop of Addis Ababa, reportedly said that it is not the first time for the government to fire teargas in the church. He recalled the incident from St. Stefanos church where the government did the same thing and blamed it on “illegal groups” instead of taking action on those who perpetrated the attack.
The government failed to look into its structure to discern individuals and leaders that are aggravating contradictions and take corrective measures. Rather, he went on to say, the government continued taking action that will make the people develop hostility towards the government.
His Grace confirmed that the religious ceremony was disrupted after government security forces entered the church from the North direction and fired two teargas, and the Ark was returned to its Chancel.
He also confirmed that one person is dead, fifteen Sunday School Choir members were taken to hospital because of the attack, and priests and the laity got bodily and psychological trauma from the attack.
Apart from teargas, government security forces fired live bullets.
The extent to which the government traveled to make the incident appear as if it was caused by a certain group while it was the very government security forces who fired the teargas and bullet on people who were worshiping is unacceptable, his Grace said.
Government-issued a statement the same day and it blamed an unspecified group for the incident.
The Ethiopian Church has given two weeks for the government to hold those responsible for the incident accountable and make them appear before the court, or it will take a measure to defend its rights.
The Ethiopian Church has been experiencing constant attacks from individuals and groups within government structures at different levels of governance structures. And it has been worsening in the past four or five years. From the burning of churches to the slaughter of priests, the church endured it all in different parts of the country.
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