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Ethiopia: Churches damaged and destroyed

18 February 2016

Churches damaged and destroyed

Two separate incidents have left six churches either destroyed or damaged in the west-central border region of Oromia state in southern Ethiopia.

On Monday 15 February, Islamic extremists turned on Christians during riots in villages near the west-central border of Oromia State and burned four churches and damaged two other churches.

The trouble started when six people, including some police officers, were killed in riots in the town of Aje. When military officials were deployed to the area, they killed three protestors.

The protests spread to the nearby communities of Sembete-Senkele, Ropi and Loke, where the rioters turned on the churches. They razed three Kale Hiwot churches and one Full Gospel Church in Senbete-Senkele to the ground, and damaged a church in Ropi and a church in Loke. The attacks caused Christians to flee and seek refuge in other nearby villages.

Ethiopia has seen a rise in anti-government protests since January by Oromos, a group that forms roughly 40% of the population.

Asked why political protests turned into attacks against the church, one source who asked to remain anonymous explained: "The riots just created an opportunity for extremists to express their anger about the local churches sharing their Christian faith with the mostly Muslim local community. The Christians are convinced the rioters burnt their church just because of their faith."

Another Christian, whose business was destroyed, told our source: "I am an Oromo, but they came looking for me. I think they burned my business to frustrate other believers."

This is not the first time the church in Senbete-Senkele has faced attack. On 20 December 2009, the body of a Christian, Markos Lagiso, was found in front of his home in the town. Christians believed he was killed because he sponsored the legal proceedings of his congregation following an attack by Muslim extremists in September 2009. Two churches were also burnt down in 2010.

In another, unrelated incident, Open Doors has been informed that on Sunday 14 February, Islamic extremists attacked Christians during worship in two separate congregations in the village of Shire Borera near the town of Shashemene, 250km south of the capital Addis Ababa in Oromia state. No further details are known at this stage about the attack.

Please pray:

  • That the situation will be brought under control quickly
  • For the Lord's protection over His children and that they will receive courage to face the situation.

More News from Ethiopia:

Find out more about persecution in Ethiopia.