Ethiopian Christians took to the streets after morning mass on Sunday to protest multiple attacks on Ethiopian Orthodox churches in the country.
The protests were mainly centered in the Amhara region and parts of Addis Ababa, and follow a year-long spate of attacks on both Orthodox and Protestant churches in the country. Protestors are demanding an end to what they view as “a planned and orchestrated attack on the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church”, according to a report on Borkena.com.
- Thousands protested despite church organisations announcing on Friday that the action was postponed in favour of dialogue.
- Diaspora communities are also planning a similar protest on 19 September in four North American cities.
Like many such issues in Ethiopia, the attacks on houses of worship have taken an increasingly ethno-nationalist form. The growing religious violence has raised fears of politically-instigated extremism pitting the largely Christian population (60%) and Muslim populations (35%) against each other.
- Since July 2018, over 30 churches have been destroyed, most of them in Jijiga, the capital of the Somali region.
- In August 2018, BBC Amharic reported that seven priests had been killed and seven churches burnt in Jijiga, according to a report by BBC Amharic.
- Two attacks in March and April 2019 in Jijiga left 12 people dead, while five churches were attacked in Sidama in July, resulting in three deaths.
Political interests and fake news
On 9 February, 10 churches belonging to eight different Christian denominations were destroyed in Southern Ethiopia after fake reports that mosques had been attacked in Durame, a town in south-east Ethiopia.
- The next day, two mosques were attacked in Amhara after unconfirmed reports indicated that scrap paper from a Muslim wedding’s decorations included desecrated images of St. Mary. A third mosque was burnt a few days later.
- “The act is a deliberate move by those who want to use religion to wreak havoc in the country,” the Amhara Media Agency quoted Islamic Council secretary general Sheikh Mohammed Hassan after the attacks.