ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia — Christians in Ethiopia continue to be targets of violent acts in this country where Muslim and Eastern Orthodox religions are dominant. On December 29, 2002, a Meserete Kristos (Mennonite) Church (MKC) in Mekele was looted and burned. All its property was destroyed and one member at the church compound at the time was severely beaten.
Incidents earlier in the year included raiding the home of Christians in Abdurafi, a small village in the northwest. Two church leaders there were beaten, one needing hospitalization for 13 days. In Moyale, a town on the Kenyan border, two elderly MKC women suffered beatings. One, aged 65, spent 10 days in hospital and she sustains permanent disabilities. In Maychew, violent demonstrations led to the burning of all Christian churches there, including an MKC church. Its leader was imprisoned due to false accusations, and is still in prison, according to reports.
Fikru Zeleke, Evangelism and Missions secretary of the MKC, said that the hostility against Christians has escalated in the last year.
“Muslims in this country have targeted the evangelicals as number one enemy. The hostility is not limited to MKC. It embraces all active evangelical churches in the country,” said Zeleke.
The Muslim religion is dominant in some parts of Ethiopia, ranging from 90 percent of the population in the southeast to nearly 100 percent in the Afar region. In the Tigray region in the north, 96 percent of the people are Ethiopian Orthodox.
According to Zeleke, these religions regard themselves as the only religions that have the right to expand their faith in the country and they target evangelicals who are engaged in aggressive mission efforts throughout the nation.
The MKC has 83 missionaries working mostly among unreached groups within Ethiopia as well as international workers in three African countries. The church, in partnership with Eastern Mennonite Missions in the U.S., plans to send two workers to Asia and is in the process of accepting into membership a church of East African immigrants based in the Middle East.
Zeleke said that MKC is asking Anabaptists around the world to pray for its evangelistic and mission efforts, especially in this difficult time of opposition.
— Ferne Burkhardt, News Editor