Ethiopian Christians Cleared of Holding ‘Illegal Meetings’

September 14, 2015 by Janelle P in Africa

Four months after their initial arrest, a judge dismissed all charges against the seven Christians accused of holding “illegal meetings in secret locations” and ordered that their bail costs be refunded.

In March, after local media published complaints about increasing persecution of Christians in a Muslim dominated area in southern Ethiopia, a district court charged six administrative committee members from an Ethiopian Orthodox Church with inciting public disturbance, destroying public trust in government officials and spreading hatred. The court found all of the men guilty on August 7 and sentenced them to between five years and almost nine years in prison.

St. Mary Orthodox Church is situated in Kilto, 100 miles south of the capital Addis Ababa in the Muslim-dominated Silte zone, which is home to a number of prominent Muslims politicians. Over the past decade Worabe, capital of the Silte zone, has experienced tremendous growth and is now home to at least four prominent mosques. Ethiopian Orthodox Church (EOC) leaders have expressed concerns about increasing persecution in recent years, including mistreatment of their church and members by local Muslims and local government officials. These complaints have received considerable attention from local independent media outlets.

On March 11, the six members of St Mary’s Orthodox Church’s Administrative Committee sent a letter addressed to national leaders of the EOC and copied various government institutions, including the Office of the Prime Minister, in which they listed the persecution they have been facing. The letter cited instances of persecution including discrimination in job opportunities, unfair dismissal from jobs, unjustly negative feedback on job performance, burning of EOC church buildings, physical attacks and threats against their lives.

The administrative committee letter was leaked to the media, and local government officials summoned the authors to a meeting at which they demanded an apology. Though the EOC leaders wrote a letter of apology, on July 6 the district prosecutor proceeded to charge all six committee members with inciting a public disturbance, destroying public trust in government officials, and spreading hatred. On August 7, the Eastern Azeret Berbere district court found them guilty of all charges.

The six men were transferred to a prison in Worabe while the regional EOC diocese filed an appeal on their behalf. Give praise to God that the appeal has been successful and all six of the men have been released. “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,” said one of the Christians, who wished to thank those who had been praying for them.

Source: World Watch Monitor

Father, truly we know from experience and from Your Word that, “in all things [You] work for the good of those who love [You], who have been called according to [Your] purpose.” (Romans 8:28) Today, we pray for Your church in the Silte zone of Ethiopia that the imprisonment of these six men will result in increased peace between Christians and Muslims in the region and that Your gospel will be spread through the preaching of Your Word and through the gospel being lived out in the lives of believers. Father, open the eyes of those around them that they might see Your truth and turn to You in repentance and saving faith. We pray too that Your church will be strengthened through this trial that their faith might be strong and that they might see Your mighty power at work in their midst. In the Name of Jesus, to whom we give all glory and honor, Amen.

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