Ethiopia: Young Christians arrested for evangelism while church leaders imprisoned for complaining about persecution

Ethiopia

A group of 15 young Christians have been attacked and arrested for engaging in evangelism in eastern Ethiopia. In southern Ethiopia, six Christian leaders from Kilto, in southern Ethiopia, have been found guilty of inciting public disturbance, destroying public trust in government officials and spreading hatred.

Barnabas helps Ethiopian Christians run small businesses to generate income
Barnabas helps Ethiopian Christians run small businesses to generate income

The six men sentenced, members of a church administrative committee, had written a letter to their national church leadership on 11 March describing the persecution they had endured as Christians living in the Muslim-majority Silte zone. The letter was also copied to several government institutions as well as the Prime Minister’s office. The complaint was leaked to local media and widely disseminated.

They complained of discrimination in employment opportunities, unfair dismissal from jobs, harsh job performance feedback, burned church buildings, physical attacks and death threats, and sent the letter to national church leaders. They also compared the extreme difficulty of their plight to the conditions in Libya, mentioning the 30 Ethiopian men in Libya who were abducted and killed by Islamic State militants.

Local government officials demanded that the Christians apologise, which the Christians did in another letter. Nevertheless, the church committee leader, Yemariam Worke, was sentenced on 7 August to eight years and eight months in prison and the other five men to five years and six months. They were then transferred to a prison in Worabe, capital of Silte zone.

Ethnic Silte people voted to create a separate zone in a referendum in 2001. Some of Ethiopia’s top politicians are from Silte, including the Minister of Defence and the Minister of Communications.  

In eastern Ethiopia, two female members of a group of 15 Christian young people were physically attacked, said World Watch Monitor on 25 August. The young believers had travelled 270 miles (430 km) from the capital city Addis Ababa to the town of Karamile in the Muslim-majority Oromia state in order to join young people from the town for an evangelistic mission.

When police intervened they arrested the 15 Christians instead of the attackers. When church leaders later requested they be released, they were let out later that day.

In violation of the Ethiopian Constitution, the next day, all of the church leaders in Karamile were summoned by town and security officials and told to stop all evangelistic activities outside church buildings. They were also told that they are allowed to pray in their own homes, but are not permitted to invite people to these prayers.