When a group of 15 Ethiopian Christian youth decided to join an evangelistic outreach to another town, they never anticipated that the journey could result in physical assault, arrest, incarceration and restrictive penalties imposed on the local Christian community.
But that is exactly what happened to the Christian youth who traveled 267 miles from the capital of Addis Ababa to visit the eastern Ethiopian town of Karamile in a Muslim-dominated area of Oromia state last week to fellowship with other youth and engage in outreach.
Trouble started on the first day of their visit when a group of local people opposed their evangelistic efforts and physically assaulted two of the female members of the group. Police quickly intervened, but instead of taking action against the aggressors, they arrested and jailed all 15 of the visiting youths. Thankfully, the officials released them later in the day after local church leaders intervened on their behalf and advocated for their release.
However, the local church leaders learned the next day that this incident would have much broader impact. Town administrators and security officers summoned all church leaders in Karamile to a meeting and ordered them to stop all evangelistic activities outside of the church premises.
The officials said the Christians could no longer talk to anyone about religion outside church premises. They also said that although the Christians had the right to pray privately in their homes with their families, they were not allowed to invite other people to such prayers.
These regulations are in conflict with the constitution of Ethiopia, which guarantees freedom of religion and protects freedom of expression without interference.
Church leaders in Karamile have asked Christians in the West to pray for them:
· For wisdom for the church leaders as they consider how to respond to these restrictions
· That the town administrators and security officers would come to see that these restrictions are in conflict with the constitution and rescind the restrictions
· For the youths who were attacked and jailed. Pray that these developments will not cause them to become fearful, but that they will remain steadfast in the faith
· For full recovery of the two women who received bruises in the attack
Ethiopia is ranked #22 on the 2015 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.
*Representative photo used