Ethiopia has a long history with both Christianity and Islam, and over time both religions have engaged in attempts to expand their sphere of influence. Additionally, Ethiopia has many tribes. These are not necessarily favorable to Christianity, and in some places like Afar and the Somali regions, tribes are interconnected with Islam. The ruling party in the country has blocked all the channels for freedom of expression and assembly, and has also tried to control all religious institutions in a bid to curb dissent. Amidst all of this, the Ethiopian Orthodox Church (EOC) experiences a great deal of difficulty trying to reconcile itself with the growing number of both traditional and non-traditional Protestants in Ethiopia and reform-oriented groups within the church itself. Fanatical groups within the EOC use inflammatory rhetoric against Protestants/Evangelicals in their magazines, websites and newspapers, using such expressions as “newcomers”, “false prophets” and “menafikan” (deniers of Virgin Mary and the saints) to portray them as non-believers.
Since November of last year, Ethiopia has been experiencing unprecedented levels of political unrest. An estimated 240 people have died in the violence and scores have been arrested.
Repeated trials and postponements have followed three Christians who claim they are innocent of the 2015 charges of setting fire to an Orthodox Church.
“Workitu is like Stephen,” commented a local evangelist.