Three Christians in eastern Ethiopia are facing years in jail after being accused of terrorism and interfering with government work after they opposed the construction of a government building within their church premises. They remain anonymous on request of local Christians.
Police arrested the three Christians on Sept. 30 in the city of Harar in eastern Ethiopia about 325 miles from the capital of Addis Ababa when they prevented government workers from unloading construction materials inside the church compound. The church says the plans to erect the building inside the premises are part of a ploy to uproot the church from the area.
This congregation has been holding church services at this site for years. With the financial support of a foreign donor, the church opened an elementary school for the local population inside the premises. But after a few years the donor was no longer able to support the school. As a result, the church asked the government education bureau to cover salaries so that they could keep the school going.
The bureau agreed but then decided to expand the school without consulting the church. It also asked the church to remove its name from the sign board at the school gate.
Muslims in Ethiopia consider the city of Harar where the church is located as the fourth holy city in Islam. For centuries it was the center of Islamic education, literature and expansion in eastern Africa. Almost all officials at the regional government level are Muslims. Christians in this area face intense pressure because of their faith.
“They want to confiscate church land,” added one of the Christian leaders. “This is not the first time officials are doing such things. Last year they closed churches and confiscated chairs and the corrugated sheets. They also closed another church which was later opened after prolonged appeals to the regional state and federal government. They also removed church sign boards from another church. This is intended to uproot the church from the region.”
The church leaders have since been released on bail and now face a lengthy legal process. If the prosecutor decides to proceed, the leaders could possibly end up in jail for years.
Please pray for:
· Church leaders facing the uncertainty of the trial
· God’s peace for their families
· Wisdom for regional church leaders as they support the accused church leaders.
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.