Hostility Fosters Church Unity in Rural Ethiopia
The ostracized yet faithful church in a remote southwestern Ethiopian community has recently witnessed how God turns difficult situations around for His glory. Open Doors has been privileged to see how God used persecution to unify the church, and used an Open Doors encouragement visit to show a hostile community that their Christian neighbors are part of a larger body of believers who care about them and suffer with them.
It began with the burning of a church member’s home. Many of the Christians dismissed it as a random incident. No suspects were identified or questioned, but church leaders were wary and knew they needed to pray.
A month later, there were twin arson attacks on a church building, and on another church member’s home. After a perpetrator set fire to the church and a small guesthouse located on the premises, it did not take long for the flames to engulf the wood and straw structures. By the time help arrived, the fire had consumed church materials, choir uniforms, musical instruments and the pulpit. Church members salvaged a few chairs from the charred remains. Thankfully no one was hurt.
At the same time, a fire was set on the house of a believer in a nearby settlement. Quickly, the fire spread and engulfed the roof. Neighbors noticed the flames, and broke down the door alerting the sleeping family. Fortunately, they escaped unharmed, but sadly, they lost everything in the fire.
The Orthodox Church and Islam have a strong presence in the area, but Animism, has and even greater influence. Many villagers worry over offending ancestral spirits. “People fear that they will not succeed in life if they don’t obey the witchdoctors,” explains a local church leader. The local church views these arson attacks as a clear sign of a coordinated plan against them.
Open Doors recently visited the believers in this village. They were overjoyed to welcome members from their Christian family. Open Doors staff members encouraged them from Scripture, and reminded them that as Christians, we are called to share in Christ’s suffering.
In spite of the losses, the visitors were pleased to see how the community had come together, contributing from what little they had to help the family rebuild their home. The attacks also united the evangelical community, observing that the four churches in the area had formed an alliance and are meeting regularly for prayer.
“They told us that our visit earned the Christian community respect among others in their village. They noticed that we are not alone and are connected to people outside the village – which might make them think twice before attacking again,” explained an Open Doors staff member.
Heavenly Father, we thank You for turning a fearful situation into spiritual growth for the believers in Ethiopia; we ask for You to continue to sustain and guide them. We also pray for churches and believers to continue to stand strong in this situation, and we ask that You fill them with Your love and forgiveness. Father God, also bless the church leaders with Your wisdom so that they will be able to direct and reassure the members of their congregations. Lastly Father, we ask that You provide for all the needs of the two families who lost their houses, and restore and bless the church as they continue to live out a clear testimony for Christ. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.