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ETHIOPIA: « At least » 78 priests « massacred » in one zone of Tigray

The document, obtained exclusively by the Telegraph, claims a number of mass killings have taken place over the last five months

 

By Lucy Kassa

 

The Telegraph (10.05.2021) – https://bit.ly/3y5aDa4 – At least 78 priests were “massacred” in one zone of Tigray, according to an official church letter leaked to the Telegraph.

The letter, which was addressed to the Synod of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, says that “priests, deacons, choristers, and monks” have been “massacred” over the last five months.

Half a dozen survivors confirmed the news to this newspaper and said that both Ethiopian national army soldiers and Eritrean troops went into their holy spaces across southeast Tigray and “shot them down”.

Ethiopia has been wracked by a horrific civil war since the Nobel Peace Prize winner Abiy Ahmed sent his national army into the mountainous northern region of Tigray to oust the powerful regional government there on November 4.

The news comes several days after a video was smuggled out of the country showing the head of Ethiopia’s Orthodox Church Abune Mathias condemning what he calls a ‘genocide’ being committed on the ethnic Tigrayan people by the Ethiopian state.

The conflict has released an almighty humanitarian crisis and neither priests nor religious sites have not been spared.

 

Centuries-old monasteries and mosques, including the 6th century Debre Damo monastery and Al-Nejashi, Africa’s first Mosque, have been looted and bombed by Eritrean troops who are allied to Ethiopia’s government in Addis Ababa.

The stamped letter was sent on April 15 and lists the number of clergymen killed over the past five months in the church administrations.

Priests who survived the killings told the Telegraph the number of dead clergymen could be much higher than 78.

Gergera Maryam, Adi’Zeban Karagiorgis, Kidanemihret Bosa, Taksa and the monastery of Da Abune Ayzgi are some of the churches where churchmen were massacred, according to witnesses.

Kahsay* and his deacon son Halfom* fled their homes to the nearby mountains of Seharti after receiving news that the Eritrean and Ethiopian troops were raiding churches.

Two days later, Halfom returned back to the church in their village to see if the situation had improved. “I begged my son not to go back. He promised me he would return. But he did not return. The Eritrean soldiers killed my son” says Kahsay, an old man. “I learned a week later the villagers picked up my son’s body. I did not attend his burial. He was only 25.”

In Ethiopian Orthodox tradition, many priests and deacons gather in churchyards to celebrate Saints’ Celebration days.

Three witnesses told the Telegraph that Ethiopian and Eritrean soldiers specifically target these celebration days to execute members of the church.

“In the afternoon of January 9, there were many of us in the church of Adi’Zeban Karagiorgis. We were there to celebrate the birth of the Virgin Mary,” one witness who asked to remain anonymous, said. “Suddenly, eight Ethiopian soldiers entered the churchyard. The soldiers picked 12 young deacons between the ages of 15 and 20. They took them out and shot them down,” he says.

Hadera*, an old priest, survived a massacre at the church of Gergera Da Mariam. He says there have been various killings and massacres since early December 2020.

The 76-year-old says he was praying on February 1 when 12 Ethiopian and Eritrean soldiers barged into the sacred room of the church.

“They entered the holy room with their shoes. They shouted over us saying; ‘You are our enemies because you have comforted and preached to the villagers that this shall pass. You should not have done that,” recounts Hadera.

“There were six priests in the room. They shot us all and left the church. My friends died. It is nothing short of a miracle I survived.”

The Telegraph approached Eritrea’s information minister, Yemane Gebremeskel and spokeswoman of the Ethiopian Prime Minister office Billene Seyoum for comment. Neither had replied at the time of going to press.

 

Photo: Priests from the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church lead the procession during a Sunday morning service in Tigray CREDIT: Ben Curtis /AP





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UNITED KINGDOM: Government to increase protections for persecuted Christians abroad, following Bishop’s review

Prime Minister Boris Johnson used his Christmas message to express sympathy for Christians “who are facing persecution” around the world

 

The Telegraph (11.01.2020) – https://bit.ly/2FS8DYS – Persecuted Christians abroad will have their protection bolstered by the British government, following a landmark pledge to adopt a new definition of anti-Christian discrimination and persecution.

 

Last year the former foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt, commissioned  Philip Mounstephen, the bishop of Truro, to spend six months examining the extent and nature of Christian persecution as well as assessing the UK government’s response.

 

Among the recommendations proposed by the Bishop included: establishing a UN security council resolution urging Middle East and northern African countries to do more to protect Christians, send UN observers to monitor the effectiveness of security measures, impose sanctions on regimes found to have committed “serious human rights abuses” against religious minorities, and create a Magna Carta Fund dedicated to their protection.

 

Other recommendations included rolling out mandatory training to help staff at home and abroad better identify persecution in all its forms as well as adopting a definition of anti-Christian discrimination and persecution, similar to those applied to Islamophobia and antisemitism.

 

Now it has emerged that the government plans to implement all the recommendations “in full”.

 

Speaking last week during a foreign affairs debate in the House of Lords, Baroness Goldie, Minister of State at the Ministry of Defence, was referring to “the important matter of the Truro review and its recommendations”.

 

She added: “The Government intend to implement the recommendations in full.”

 

In his report the Bishop of Truro said that the UK government should “name the phenomenon of Christian discrimination and persecution and undertake work to identify its particular character alongside similar definitions for other religions”.

 

Baroness Goldie also revealed that the government will also “show global leadership” by imposing Magnitsky-style sanctions on nations which violate human rights.

 

“Secondary legislation will be laid under the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Act 2018 once we leave the EU,” she said. “This will allow the UK to impose Magnitsky-style sanctions in response to serious human rights violations or abuses.”

 

The Magnitsky Act was enacted by the Obama Administration, authorizing the U.S. Government to sanction human rights offenders.

 

In his report the Bishop of Truro said that the UK government should “name the phenomenon of Christian discrimination and persecution and undertake work to identify its particular character alongside similar definitions for other religions”.

 

This would be with the aim of developing tailored policies within the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to address such issues.

 

The announcement comes after Prime Minister Boris Johnson used his Christmas message to express sympathy for Christians “who are facing persecution” around the world.

 

He used his message to vow to “defend” their right to religious expression, saying he will aim to “change” the dire predicament of those punished for their faith.

 

Ayo Adedoyin, Executive Director of PSJ UK (The international Organisation for Peace Building and Social Justice) welcomed the announcement.

 

He said: “It is great news that the new Boris Johnson Government is taking seriously at long last the appalling suffering of Nigerian Christians, who are being brutally targeted by Islamist Fulani militants and Islamic State terrorists.

 

The Bishop of Truro has produced 22 detailed recommendations all designed to give greater prominence to the carnage against Christians worldwide and in Nigeria in particular. Crucially, they include the imposition of sanctions against governments such as the Buhari regime, who turn a blind eye or worse to the suffering of innocent villagers singled out solely because of their faith.

 

“The death toll is running at 1,000 a year and in addition many more are being maimed and terrorised and driven from their homes. Britain gives Nigeria £300 million a year in aid and it is time to link that to a genuine attempt by Abuja to protect Christians. It is time to stop the silent slaughter of the innocents.”

 

 

Recommended reading

Bishop of Truro’s independent review for the Foreign Secretary of FCO support for persecuted Christians: Final report and recommendations
https://christianpersecutionreview.org.uk/storage/2019/07/final-report-and-recommendations.pdf

 

The West owes Iraq’s persecuted minorities a lot more than just talk
https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2019/07/08/west-owes-iraqs-persecuted-minorities-lot-just-talk/

 

Jeremy Hunt: We must not allow a misguided political correctness to stop us from helping persecuted Christians
https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/12/26/must-not-allow-misguided-political-correctness-stop-us-helping/

 

Boris Johnson will highlight plight of persecuted Christians across the world in his Christmas message
https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2019/12/23/boris-johnson-will-highlight-plight-persecuted-christians-across/

 


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