Over a year after the ascent of a new prime minister in Ethiopia bred hope for reform, bursting ethnic tensions are sending the country into a spiral of violence that is leaving churches and worshippers subject to property damage and murder.
Thirty churches, mostly Ethiopian Orthodox, have been attacked, 18 have been burned to the ground, and almost 100 worshippers have been killed since July 2018, Tewodros Tirfe, chairman of the Amhara Association of America, an organization that advocates on behalf of Ethiopia’s Amhara people, told the Washington Examiner. Christians and non-Christians alike have been caught up in the crossfire of heightened ethnic and political violence. Earlier this month, Ethiopian Orthodox Church leaders and government officials met, while Christians protested the violence directed at them.
The protests and meetings have yet to produce a concrete plan of action from the government, although they are a major problem for Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who has struggled to control violence among the country’s roughly 80 ethnic groups, despite inspiring optimism across the world when he assumed office last April.
Vice President Mike Pence praised Abiy last July, lauding his “historic reform efforts” and noting his work on “improving respect for human rights, reforming the business environment, and making peace with Eritrea.” Abiy oversaw the release of hundreds of political prisoners, and a CNN report from December labeled him the prime minister “who captured Africa’s imagination.” . . .
Ethiopia’s political structure and geography reinforces these ethnic divisions, as state boundaries roughly coincide with ethnic boundaries. Ethiopia is also surrounded by countries such as Somalia, Eritrea, and Sudan, which are dealing with terrorism and other forms of political violence. As Ethiopia has witnessed a breakdown of internal security, Horne noted the country’s border has also grown more porous, allowing small arms to enter the country and make ethnic conflict deadlier. About 3 million people are internally displaced from conflict, more than anywhere else in the world. (Read more from “Churches Burned and Worshippers Killed in Ethiopia’s Ethnic Carnage” HERE)