Systemic pressure on the assembly of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church

The latest protest is the Mayor of Addis Ababa’s remark in Meskel Square, which is legally owned by the Ethiopian Orthodox Church

Ethiopian Orthodox Holy Synod (Photo: file. Source – EOTC TV)

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The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church continues to face what appears to be orchestrated systemic pressure from Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s Prosperity Party.

The latest push has come in a rather melodramatic effort by the Addis Ababa city administration to make the Ethiopian Orthodox Church appear irrational about its claims in the city and its dealings with the authorities. governmental.

The month of January (Tir in Amharic) is rich in religious events that reveal the continuation of government provocations against the Ethiopian Church. Earlier in the month, church worshipers were sprayed with tear gas in St. Estifanos Church, adjacent to Meskel Square in the capital, when the Addis Ababa City Administration ordered police to take strong action while the laity worshipped.

A few days later, police in the Oromia region shot and greeted three church members in a solemn epiphany procession when the replica Ark of the Covenant was on its way back to the altar of Woybela Mariam Church in the outskirts of Addis Ababa. Ten others were injured. Police authorities in Oromia fired into the crowd on the grounds that people were wearing cultural clothes in the colors of the Ethiopian flag (sounds rather ridiculous, but the information is verified from several sources).

Then comes the remark of Adanech Abiebie, “elected” mayor of Addis Ababa, about Meskel Square on which the Ethiopian Orthodox Church has property rights.

A Protestant pastor, Zelalem, organized a fundraising party in Meskel Square under the guise of supporting those affected by the war. The Ethiopian Church was not consulted on this. Many say it could have been held elsewhere if it was really about supporting people affected by war.

Worse still, Adanech Abiebie appeared on stage at the fundraising party and made what appears to be, in fact, this is clearly a politicized remark against the Ethiopian church for numerous provocative remarks that challenge the right of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church in Meskel Square where the Ethiopian Orthodox Church celebrates Meskel. (a religious holiday commemorating the finding of the true cross on the Lord Jesus Christ was crucified).

She said, to the applause of protesting crowds who showed up at Meskel Square for the event, that Meskel Square belongs to all Addis Ababa because it was renovated with taxpayers’ money, and that it also belongs to all Ethiopians. There is an account that describes Meskel Square as the private property of a devout follower of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church who transferred it to the Church as his inheritance. It was nationalized during the Ethiopian revolution in the 1970s, but the Ethiopian church reclaimed it (along with many other church properties confiscated in the city) after the overthrow of Colonel Mengistu Hailemariam’s government in 1991.

Another Protestant pastor by the name of Benyam objected to what he thought unnecessarily upset the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and criticized the pastor who organized the event and the mayor’s office for allowing the event to happen. on Meskel Square. He also testified that he belonged to the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. But he was thrown in jail after his remark.

The stories above are just what happened this month. Concerned about the endless pressure, the Ethiopian Orthodox Church Holy Synod sent a letter to the Mayor of Addis Ababa inviting him to a meeting at the Patriarchate where the Holy Synod meets. The mayor has, according to a report on Adebabay Media aired on February 3 (he discussed the matter in depth highlighting the organized structural attacks), a messenger to the patriarchy saying she is ready to meet with them but not to the patriarchy. She reportedly mentioned security issues.

She wanted the meeting to be held at Sheraton Addis, but Holy Synod meetings are only held at the Patriarchate for religious reasons. And this is where it gets melodramatic. The mayor and his staff showed up at the Sheraton without waiting for a response from the Holy Synod. Hours later, the mayor’s office and the Addis Ababa Prosperity Party shared on their social media pages that representatives of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church had failed to show up.

The development has become a topic of discussion among Ethiopians on social media. And many tend to think that Adanech Abiebie was just a tool for a systematic and organized attack on the Ethiopian Church.

The Ethiopian Church has been targeted by ideologically motivated ethnic nationalists, including the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), as part of efforts to weaken it and the country.

While some credit Abiy Ahmed’s government with “bringing the two synods together”, it is evident that the attack on the Ethiopian Orthodox Church has become more orchestrated and intensified. Dozens of church worshipers had been killed in Oromia, Somalia and southern Ethiopia. Burned churches and burnt properties of Ethiopian church followers.

The Church has not officially responded, but increasing administrative, structural and politically motivated attacks on the Ethiopian Orthodox Church appear to have created disenchantment with Abiy Ahmed’s government.

Some fear that outside powers are being implicated in an attempt to impose the “prosperity gospel” as the government’s favored form of religion in Ethiopia.

What is evident is that the structural attack on the Ethiopian Orthodox Church is real. The church is one of the most studied institutions in Ethiopia by scholars from the western world.

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Jerry B. Hatch