Lalibela, a small town in Amhara State Northern Ethiopia, is regarded by the Ethiopian Orthodox Church (EOC) as a holy place. It is home to 11 rock hewn Orthodox churches, making it a major tourist attraction. Although EOC followers form the majority of the population in the town, Evangelical believers have been in the town for the last 20 years. Unfortunately the people still look upon the Evangelical believers with disdain and believe that no other religion than the EOC should be tolerated In Lalibela.
In an open sermon, the main EOC priest of Lalibela called on his members to take intimidating actions against Christians in their community. He encouraged EOC members to stop greeting Evangelical Christians, renting houses to them, support their businesses and told parents to forbid their children to have relationships with kids from Evangelical families.
Following the priest’s request, a spate of numerous attacks ensued.
On 22 April 2012, a church in Lalibela was having their usual Sunday morning service when police and municipal officers had gathered outside the building. After the proceeding, the unaware congregation was met with flashing cameras. As they were exiting the building, the awaiting officials started taking pictures of each member without their permission. The police entered the church and informed the leaders that they have orders to close down the church. The leaders attempted to discuss the matter with them and enquired about the official letter giving the orders, but they were patently ignored.
Right after the police locked the doors and sealed the keys with an official stamp, some men started beating the church leader, Tesafa, his wife and Tesafa’s brother in law. A stone was flung at Tesafa which hit him in the chest. Struggling to breathe, the pastor’s wife tried to shield him with her body. The aggressors pulled her off and slapped her in the face. Eventually when more police arrived on the scene, the assault was defused. Tesafa was taken to the nearest hospital but because of his critical condition, Doctors referred him to a better hospital in Weldiya. Fellow Christians had to collect money to pay for a driver and fuel to take him to Weldiya.
Please pray for Christians like Tesafa and his church family, who experience the pains of physical persecution for following Christ.