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Vol I No. 1
Anglicans Worldwide

The Overlooked Genocide: the fate of Christians in Ethiopia’s Tigray Region

by sinetortus

Tigray Refugees, (Photo: Africa Report)

Reports have been coming in since late last year of a major catastrophe leading to the mass murder of Christians in the Tigray region of Ethiopia but they have received astonishingly little attention.

The horrors began last November after fighting broke out in Tigray as the Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed sent federal troops, with the support of troops from Eritrea, to fight the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, which he accused of holding illegitimate elections.

The lack of international coverage or engagement is very striking.

Where there has been any media coverage at all the fact that Christians are being targeted is notable for being carefully omitted.(See for example: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/01/world/africa/ethiopia-tigray-sexual-assault.html  this is a compelling account of some of the horrors but the Christian dimension is nowhere mentioned as the following excerpt illustrates:

“MEKELLE, Ethiopia — Mona Lisa lay on a hospital bed in Mekelle, the main city in war-torn northern Ethiopia, her body devastated but her defiance on display….the 18-year-old Ethiopian high school graduate had survived an attempted rape that left her with seven gunshot wounds and an amputated arm. She wanted it to be known that she had resisted.  “This is ethnic cleansing,” she said. “Soldiers are targeting Tigrayan women to stop them giving birth to more Tigrayans.”….Her account is one of hundreds detailing abuses in Tigray, the mountainous region in northern Ethiopia where a grinding civil war has been accompanied by a parallel wave of atrocities including widespread sexual assault targeting women…..A senior United Nations official told the Security Council last week that more than 500 Ethiopian women had formally reported sexual violence in Tigray, although the actual toll is likely far higher, she added. In the city of Mekelle, health workers say new cases emerge every day….. “(New York Times, By Simon Marks and Declan Walsh,  Published April 1, 2021)

Patriarch Mathias, who heads of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church,

earlier this month described events including the rape of women, including nuns, and the bombing of churches in the region as genocide,  …at the hands of troops from neighbouring Eritrea who are assisting the Ethiopian army.

And just this week a new report by Fionn Shiner circulated by the widely respected Roman Catholic relief agency Aid to the Church in Need makes clear that the slaughter is continuing and still not receiving the urgent international attention needed:

“The targeting of young people, indiscriminate killings and widespread sexual violence – including the rape of nuns – is part of a genocide against the Tigrayan ethnic group of northern Ethiopia,…

The source, (anonymous for security reasons said) that “Eritrean soldiers are continuing to slaughter civilians…This is clearly genocide against the people of Tigray. This is not just fighting, they are killing everybody – that is a sign of genocide.”

The report went on with the further quotes: “Many people are escaping from Tigray to Sudan and some of them, especially the young, are escaping because they are being targeted. They are deliberately targeting the young….  In this regard, the most affected are pregnant mothers, children, disabled and elderly members of society.”

“Nearly 90 percent of people in Tigray are displaced …. The current crisis in Tigray is unparalleled to any humanitarian crises that have happened to date or that we know in memory.”   ‘Genocide is happening in Tigray’ Friday, 28thMay 202

Now after fighting lasting more than six months the Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed of Ethiopia has rather effectively “sought to quell critical coverage of the conflict with a campaign of arrests, intimidation and obstruction targeting the independent news media, according to human rights campaigners and media freedom organizations.”
The Prime Minister who launched the conflict has to face an election scheduled for June 5 but it is widely “expected to cement his hold on power. But rights groups describe a climate of fear and repression that has eroded Ethiopia’s already-tenuous press freedoms and could undermine confidence in the outcome of the vote.” (See, “As Ethiopia Fights in Tigray Region, a Crackdown on Journalists”, N.Y.T., by Abdi Latif Dahir and Declan Walsh  May 13, 2021)

 

Ethiopia, is Africa’s second most populous country with a population thought to number about 115 million people and has had a very troubled history in recent decades.

The latest conflict has deepened ethnic tensions and created an immense humanitarian and political crisis that involves neighbouring countries and has the potential to destabilize the entire Horn of Africa.

It is thought that now more than 5 million people, which means most of Tigray’s population, urgently need assistance.

According to the United Nations and local officials an estimated 1 million to 2 million people have been displaced from their homes, and more than 63,000 have fled to Sudan.

United Nations  officials warned in late May that the conflict has left parts of Tigray one step away from famine. Without unimpeded access by international relief convoys, they warn, many Tigray residents could starve within months.

The Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Abiy Ahmed,  was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2019, although the child of a Muslim father and an Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church Christian mother is reportedly, himself a Pentecostal.  He was raised in a family of religious plurality. He, along with his entire family, is a regular church attendee, and Abiy also occasionally ministers in preaching and teaching the Gospel at the Ethiopian Full Gospel Believers’ Church.  (“God wants Ethiopians to prosper: The prime minister and many of his closest allies follow a fast-growing strain of Christianity”The Economist. 24 November 2018.)