Ethiopian Orthodox Church : “Attack Was Ideologically Motivated With Geopolitical Background”
Coordinated, systemic, and barbaric attack with support from government structure targeted Orthodox Christians in Oromo region, says the Holy Synod of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. Government structure was exploited to implement it.
Patriarch Abune Mathias and some members of the Holy Synod during the press statement. Photo source : Mahibere Kidusan
August 26, 2020
Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church on Wednesday issued a statement regarding the massacre of members of the church in the Oromo region of Ethiopia.
Starting with a spiritual message from the Gospel of John 16፥20 “Very truly I tell you, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy,” the statement said that the Church grieved the death of Hachalu Hundessa (baptism name HaileGebriel) who was assassinated on June 29, 2020.
Despite that, said the statement, the church was not given time to heal from the grief (the fact that it was grieving was forgotten, and rather considered as enemy), and children of the church were massacred in a shocking manner in some parts of Oromia region.
The horrifying massacre happened for three consecutive days following the assassination of Hachalu.
Furthermore, the statement said that the result of investigation by the church reveals that 67 members of the Ethiopian Church were savagely killed during the time mentioned above. 38 others have sustained severe wounds and are left with disability, and 29 have sustained light injuries, as reported by Mahibere Kidusan. More than 7,000 members of the church were displaced — and facing social and psychological crisis.
Some were killed with machetes. Others were killed with spears and mencha (agricultural tool which used for cutting trees, among other things). Still, others were stoned to death. The bodies of those who were killed were left outside for days and some bodies were devoured by beasts.
The statement also recounted that women were rapped in front of their children, spouses and their parents. The wealth they [members of the church] created through a lifetime of hard work was selectively looted and what was left off was burned to the ground after it was sprayed with fuel. The statement called the attack an orchestrated one.
The Holy Synod also revealed that a committee tasked to investigate the nature and extent of the attack was deployed 25 districts in the Oromo region carried out a thorough investigation by speaking to victims from the attack, among other methods. The finding is, according to the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, ethnic and religious radicals lurking in government structures coordinated with other organized groups (outside of government structure) and specifically targeted the followers of Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church.
Apart from that, it is established that property (belonging to the followers of the church) worth 5 billion Ethiopian birr was destroyed.
Recalling that the Holy Synod of the Church issued a statement (on July 1, 2020) to express condolence, the statement added the church has been praying since the incident while waiting for government authorities to see if their pledge to “hold perpetrators accountable and compensate those who were attacked” materialize.
“However, we have not seen authorities discharging their responsibilities in terms of protecting citizens from attack preemptively, ensuring that justice is served and compensating those who suffered loss [as a result of the attack] in a timely and efficient manner,” said the statement from the Holy Synod.
Who is responsible?
The church squarely stated that the government could have averted the massacre had it not acted late. And it called on the government to hold perpetrators of the attack, and government authorities who watched it indifferently.
The church opposed tendency on the part of government authorities to see recurrent attacks as “transition time challenges.” The church sees them rather as ideologically motivated and with geopolitical goals to put pressure and weaken the followers of Ethiopian orthodox Church. In their nature, the attacks are coordinated, organized and systematic, according to the church.
In that regard, the church called on the government to investigate the killings since October 2019 (97 people were massacred in a single day) and disclose the outcome of the investigation to the public.
The church also opposed the arrest of some (names not mentioned) whom the church referred as victims of the attack, and that they were arrested because of their religious identity.
The reluctance of the administration in the Oromo region of Ethiopia to act on a group operating to create “Oromia Church” is criticized in the statement, too. The group took properties belonging to the Ethiopian Orthodox Church in some parts of the region and the regional government is not acting on it. The statement called on the government to cooperate with the church to resolve the matter.
The Holy synod also asked the government to take a range of measures to ensure the safety and security of followers of the church in the Oromo region as something even more dangerous could happen unless the government acts in a preemptive manner.
Days after the incident, the Oromo regional state claimed that it has arrested over 4000 people in connection with the incident but denies that the attack did not have religious or ethnic motivation.
Meanwhile, the Church continues to mobilize support for the victims in the region.