A group of Christians from Asela, Ethiopia, who have been facing charges of holding illegal meetings in a secret location, have been set free.
The Lord answered many prayers for them when the judge dismissed all charges against them on Aug. 26. He then ordered that the bail they had paid be refunded.
The charges were brought against the Christians after police raided their congregation located in Asela about 100 miles south of the capital of Addis Ababa on April 25 during a service in which almost 40 new Christians were baptized. Police arrested three of the leaders and four church members from a Muslim background who attempted to run away out of fear, but were detained in front of spectators at the local bus station. Police also confiscated documents containing details of church members, causing fear for increased pressure against new Muslim Background Believers.
The church denied the charges against the Christians and insisted that they had all the necessary approval for their gathering as required.
Authorities held the Christians for two days at the police station and then transferred them to the local prison where they were placed with 168 other inmates into one small space. They each had just enough space to sleep on their side at night. One of them had to sleep in the area used as a toilet.
“I will not complain about that. God is in control. We consider ourselves fortunate to suffer for Christ in this way. We have not faced death, like many others have. We maintain our peace and will remain calm,” the leader of the group earlier told an Open Doors source.
Police had seven days to investigate, and were granted another seven days during a court appearance on May 4. However, the judge denied their request for another extension on May 11 and released the Christians on bail of $250 each, pointing out officials could continue their investigation without the Christians being held. Finally, on Aug. 26, the judge dismissed all charges, ruling that there was insufficient evidence against the Christians.
“The Lord is always good and He can turn everything into the good of His people. Imprisonment for the name of the Lord is not a curse. The Lord can turn it into a source of strength and courage,” one of the Christian leaders said in response to the dismissed charges.
The believers thank all who have been praying for them.
Ethiopia is ranked #22 on the Open Doors World Watch List of the 50 worst persecutors of Christians.
Compiled by Jerry Dykstra. For media inquiries, contact Christine Cape at 404-545-0085 or Christy Lynn Wilson at 770-401-9842.