An Ethiopian Christian leader says it’s time to launch an international inquiry, claiming hundreds of Christians have been murdered this summer by Muslim extremists in the Oromia region.
The Barnabus Fund, an international persecution watchdog, reports hundreds of people have been killed in coordinated door-to-door attacks—many of them targeting Christian households. The extremists, armed with guns, machetes, swords, and spears, have reportedly sought out Christian families to kill them.
Open Doors reports that Christians in Ethiopia have long been targeted for their faith: “In Ethiopia, all Christian communities are targeted by radical Islamists—particularly where the Christian community is in the minority—but some denominations are more heavily targeted. In 2019, the country saw a rise in communal violence, which displaced millions of people.” And Voice of the Martyrs reported one incident in 2019 in which 13 churches were burned.
Reports in Ethiopian media confirm what Barnabus is reporting about a spate of killings earlier this summer. The violence involves religious as well as ethnic cleansing, but the situation is complicated and appears to also involve political motivations.
Barnabus contacts were able to confirm attacks in towns throughout the region including, Arsi Negele, Ziway, Shashemane, Gedeb Asasa, Kofele, Dodola, Adaba, Robe, Goba, Bale Agarfa, Chiro, Harar, Dire Dawa, Adama, Dera, Asela, and Kembolcha, reaching to the far southeast and east of the country.
It’s been reported that some of the attackers even had lists containing the names of Christians and had received the help of local authorities in trying to find specific individuals who had been actively involved in supporting the Church in the region.
One Oromo Christian was beheaded for refusing to deny his faith. His widow told Barnabas, “The attackers said that it is only he/she who prostrates with us before Allah for prayer who is considered an Oromo.”
Witnesses said local police often stood by and watched as the murders took place. Some Barnabus contacts also reported a few courageous local Muslims in Bale Agarfa intervened, risking their own lives to protect and save the lives of some Christians.
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Christians’ businesses and houses were burned down, vandalized, or destroyed by the extremists. Extensive damage was caused to property, including businesses owned by an internationally renowned Christian athlete, Olympic track and field gold-medalist Haile Gebreselassie, in two towns, according to Barnabus.
Thousands of survivors have fled for their lives, including orphaned children, and many are being sheltered in churches and community centers.
A regional contact told Barnabas, “Many still live in fear. Christian leaders from all denominations visited the areas. I watched news where priests and pastors physically wept in tears while listened to horrors from the victims’ families.”
The Ethiopian government has responded by cutting internet service for the region for the last several weeks in an effort to reduce the incitement to violence through social media. Government security forces have been slow to intervene in the attacks that are being compared to the events leading up to the Rwandan genocide.
However, many arrests have since been made, according to regional reports, including local officials implicated in the attacks.
Last month, Barnabus contacts said the “targeted genocide” of Christians by the extremists is continuing in the south, south-east, and east of Addis Ababa. Ethiopian Christians urge concerned readers and supporters to contact their Ethiopian embassy, to call for immediate action to bring to a halt to the continuing atrocities.