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Hundreds of Muslims burn down church in Ethiopia

Country/Region: Africa, Ethiopia

A mob of more than 500 Muslims torched a church in Ethiopia after police had destroyed the roof.

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The church, in the village of Qoto Baloso, Silte province, was burnt down on 29 November by Muslim students, accompanied by Muslim police officials. The students were shouting “Allahu Akbar” (“god is great”) and “jihad”.

Four days earlier, police had destroyed the roof of the building after a court ruled that the church had been built without proper authorisation and therefore had to be demolished. More than 30 police officers were deployed to destroy the church, but in the face of protests from local Christians, they held back from demolishing the rest of the building.

Local sources told Barnabas Fund that the Christians did have a permit to build the church. The judge who made the demolition order is a Muslim; both he and the police chief who tried to enforce it are reportedly known for their anti-Christian bias.

One local Christian said:

All the government officials in the area are Muslims. The Islamic religion has become the state religion in our region. The non-Muslims in the area live and worship in fear.

The church was built on land that the Christian community has used to conduct ceremonies for over 60 years. The Supreme Court of the South Nations, Nationalities and Peoples Regional State (SNNPRS) had previously ruled in favour of the church when a Muslim businessman tried to claim ownership of the land.

The head of Silte Province police said they were investigating the burning of the church and seeking to determine who was responsible.

There are concerns about the growing Islamisation of Ethiopia and violence by Muslims against the Christian community. There have been a number of attacks this year, including the murder of church worker Abraham Abera in April, and coordinated arson attacks on scores of churches and Christian homes in Jimma Zone the previous month.

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