Rural Ethiopian Church Facing Restrictions to Worship
A mob attacked the Full Gospel Church in Tikil Dingaye, about 12 miles from the ancient Ethiopian city of Gondar in Amhara State, on Sunday, June 11. The mob invaded the church at about 8:30 a.m. and destroyed the entire meeting hall and other offices. They stole money from members and assaulted a few of them. One member was so badly injured by a blow to the face that his front teeth needed to be removed. The mob also destroyed the accommodation of an evangelist living on the same compound.
It is suspected that the attackers were incited by Mahibere Kidusan, a very organized group operating inside the Ethiopian Orthodox Church to protect the traditions and dominance of the EOC in the Ethiopian society.
In a bewildering turn of events, police took the evangelist into custody after the attack for alleged “illegal activities to incite religious clashes.” The arrest came after a member of the mob apparently gave police documents detailing the church’s evangelism activities he said he took from the church compound. The leader was released at the end of June with formal charges now being pressed.
Church leaders reported the matter to the Zonal Administration office in Gondar and asked for protection against further attacks. Instead, they were issued a letter informing them that they were no longer allowed to conduct religious services in a residential area. Church leaders in the past had unsuccessfully applied for land to build a church and, being denied, finally resorted to buying a house under the name of a church member and conducting services there. Although Ethiopia guarantees freedom or religion on paper, churches in rural areas often must resort to this approach to have a place to gather. This directive leaves the church with no place to worship.
Our Heavenly Father, gracious and merciful, abounding in grace and steadfast love, we bring before You Your children in this village in Ethiopia as they recover from this summer’s attack. Grant them much wisdom as the leaders meet with the government over their plight. We pray that they will soon receive permission to build a place of worship and gather formally to praise Your name and hear the preaching of Your Word. We pray Your comfort over those who were directly affected by the attack. Protect their hearts from fear and despair. Fill them with Your hope, steadfast faith, and wisdom as they seek to respond to their persecutors in ways that bring glory and honor to Christ. We pray especially for the evangelist who has been charged with illegal action for spreading forth the gospel of Christ. You have promised to work all things for good for those who love You and are called according to Your purposes (Romans 8:28); from this tragedy, we pray that many will turn to Christ in faith through the power and work of Your Holy Spirit. In the name of Jesus, who suffered and died that we might be reconciled to the Father and have eternal life. Amen.