In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, One God, Amen.
Press Release from the Ethiopian Orthodox Incarnation Church regarding supporting and rehabilitating Orthodox Christians who are victimized by coordinated inhumane attacks in some areas of the Oromia administrative region, in Ethiopia, following the death of our son, a fellow Orthodox Christian, Hachalu Hundessa. /August 27, 2020/
“Verily, verily, I say unto you, that ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice: and ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy.” /John 16:20/
It is remembered that Hachalu Hundessa or Haile Gabriel by his baptismal name was murdered on June 29, 2020 in the capital city of Ethiopia, Addis Ababa. The Ethiopian Orthodox Incarnation Church has been profoundly saddened by his loss. However, before the Church even had time to properly mourn her loss, her grief was neglected and she was considered an enemy, and in some parts of the Oromia administrative region, heinous destruction and atrocities were committed against her children.
Many innocent citizens were brutally massacred and tortured only because of being Orthodox Christians; many have been slaughtered with swords, mutilated with machetes, stabbed with spears, stoned and beaten to death with rocks and sticks. Most of the victims’ bodies were dragged on streets and had been left on the streets all day; their bodies were dismembered, and parts of their bodies left out on streets for days, sacrifice for predators. Women have been sexually violated in front of their children, their fathers, and husbands. Their private properties for which they labored hard for several years have been meticulously targeted for looting, and whatever was left behind was deliberately burned down with gasoline fire. Many have been exiled from their warm homes and have been forced to shelter during the night of the winter in church compounds and funeral homes, at some government facilities, and with some households. They have been subjected to hideous social and psychological trauma.
The Church, through the Standing Synod, issued a statement of condolence on July 1st, as soon as these organized attacks targeting fellow Christians were known. The church turned to God in sorrow and prayer at home and abroad as she waited patiently hoping government authorities who stated, “We would not tolerate offenders, we would give appropriate justice and recompense victims,” would fulfill their promise. However, we have not seen them fulfill their responsibility in a timely and efficient manner to keep and protect citizens from harm, to ensure justice, and to recompense victims adequately, with the full force of their capacity.
The Standing Synod discussed the issue and gave directives to establish a Grand Committee, through the Church’s administrative office, to visit the innocent victims at the various areas of the Oromia administrative region and assess the damage inflicted. Accordingly, the Grand Committee started its task by establishing different sub-committees to provide temporary aid to the victims and assess the damage in detail to adequately recompense their loss.
According to its program outline, the Grand Committee’s first task was to travel and identify areas of these atrocities, console victims and gather information. This travel, which included bishops, elders, spiritual associations, and media outlets – a total of 260 delegates, covered 25 districts (or woredas which are the third-level administrative divisions in Ethiopia) in six dioceses among the areas that were impacted a great deal.
According to the report of the delegates who spoke with victims and visited the districts attacked, it is evident that the inhumane atrocities carried out were deliberate and pre-planned targeting Orthodox Christians; and it appeared that the attacks were organized by religious and ethnic extremists that relied upon certain elements of the government, in coordination with pre-organized forces.
In the atrocities that were carried out from June 29 – July 1, 2020, 67 Christians have been brutally murdered; 38 Christians suffered permanent injuries, and 29 Christians suffered temporary physical injuries. More than 7000 Christians have been evicted out of their homes and subjected to a great deal of physical, emotional and psychological trauma. According to the initial report of the Grand Committee, these Christians lost personal properties estimated worth of more than ETB 5 billion due to looting and burned down by fire set deliberately.
Comprehending the severity of the atrocity and the dire conditions of the victims, the Grand Committee is reorganizing itself and moving forward with a strategy to assist the victims in their current location and to permanently rehabilitate them in a short period of time. It is working to identify the extent of the damage against each individual and estimate the loss of each household so that aid can be delivered directly to the victims and create favorable situations to permanently restore their livelihood.
According to the committee’s assessment of the damages, in addition to providing temporary aid and rehabilitating the victims, the committee believes that there are urgent steps that should be taken by the government and regional authorities. And these are:
1. According to the report and the evidence presented, we have concluded that, the victims are at high risk of being subjected to systematic and horrific persecution only because of their faith. It was also observed that their current condition can make them highly susceptible to the COVID-19 pandemic and other infectious diseases.
Therefore, our church strongly urges the Oromia National Regional State and the Federal Government to immediately ensure the safety of Orthodox Christian Ethiopians by protecting and guarantying their human and civil rights to life, property, security and livelihood.
2. The Church demands the government to hold accountable, according to the law for lasting justice, the perpetrators of the attacks, the coordinators, those who carried out the attacks, local authorities, and members of the security forces who intentionally turned blind eyes and silently observed the vicious attacks neglecting their due responsibility. In this regard, the church is closely watching and appreciates the government’s efforts to uphold the law after the attacks and would like to express its readiness to assist in any capacity for the success of its efforts.
3. Even though horrible acts of violence have been committed against Orthodox Christians, we understand that numerous innocent Orthodox Christian citizens who had nothing to do with the atrocities have been imprisoned and are being ill-treated only because they are Orthodox Christians, and we demand the case of these innocent citizens to be reviewed and call for their immediate release.
4. Some government officials and political parties should refrain from making a mockery of our grievance by belittling and mocking the persecuted martyrs for the purpose of political gain and expediency; the Church also urges the government to properly follow-up on this and take appropriate actions to alleviate the situation.
5. The Church urgently calls on the government to investigate the persecutions and atrocities committed against the Church’s faithful, starting from the dawn of 2012 of the Year of Mercy (October 2019), where 97 citizens have perished in the October massacre and the looting and brutal murders during the time of the celebration of Epiphany, and asks the government to bring to justice the perpetrators who participated in these inhumane crimes and to reveal the results of the investigation to the public.
6. Based on the church’s contribution to the country’s peace and unity of its people, the sacred tradition it built, and various means of opportunities it created, the Church deserves to be revered and treasured by all Ethiopians. We believe that it is a mother and a source of favor for all, for it is impossible to imagine there is an Ethiopian that did not partake of its abundant grace.
Nevertheless, in recent years, the relentless attacks and atrocities against our Church, as often reported, are not to be dismissed “just as occurrences during a period of transition”, rather, it is becoming clear over time that these are acts of cleansing Orthodox Christians with a well-coordinated strategy based on tales of erroneous narrations, ideologies and geopolitical spheres.
Therefore, the Church calls upon the federal and regional governments to fulfil their constitutional duty to prevent and curb the deliberate religious persecution and attacks perpetrated in the framework of these irrational and erroneous narrations, and myths, and uphold justice, and appropriately recompense and rehabilitate innocent victims.
Beloved victims and our children in the Holy Spirit, afflicted by the atrocities, it is known that you are currently sheltering in church compounds, sanctuaries, and residences of other individuals.
These atrocities you have endured because of your faith are going to be written with golden ink in the record of martyrs by the Church. You saved the existence and unity of your country, and bear witness of the majesty of the Church because of the sacrifice you have paid, the strength you have exhibited – being entrusted to the neck thread of your Christianity in front of persecutors.
Your Church is proud of you, for this is going to be told as exemplary for generations. All Ethiopian and Orthodox Christians are going to be by your side for the future. The church guarantees that you are not going to be alone. The aggressors may rejoice because of your misery and atrocity today, but our Church believes that your tears will be wiped away, and your sorry turned to joy in time by being adorned with the law and execution of justice.
Dear Ethiopians at home and in the diaspora, the Church views, with great admiration, the contributions you have made to support and recompense the victims of the horrific attacks, despite the challenges and hardships you may have faced due to the global corona virus pandemic. The church deeply admires your adherence to the longstanding Ethiopian teaching and way of life, tradition of unity, humanity and supporting one another regardless of race and creed. The church prays to the almighty God to repay your dues.
On the other hand, the Ethiopian Orthodox Incarnation Church presents its sincere gratitude to the international Orthodox churches for condemning the atrocity and expressing your solidarity by press release and other various means, in a spirit of unity, feeling the affliction of Orthodox Christians.
We again convey our pastoral message to you to stay prepared to respond actively to our continued call to assist the activities of the Grand Committee, established by the office of the Patriarchate, with monetary contribution, material or professional support according to its mandate, to help the victims and permanently rehabilitate the victims.
On this occasion, we would like to announce that the faithful in the country and the diaspora should present their support and donations only in the account opened by the fundraising committee that has been established by the Standing Synod.
We pray to the benevolent God that He may grant peace to our country and the world, unity to our people, rest for the souls of our children killed with cruelty, and consolation to the Church.
Glory to God!
Office of the Patriarchate of the Ethiopian Orthodox Incarnation Church
Account numbers of the bank accounts opened by the committee:
Help and recompense to Christians atrociously uprooted from their homes due to their Orthodox Faith,
Commercial Bank of Ethiopia: 8080
Unity Bank: 1601811299653018
Wegagen Bank: 0837771210101
Buna International Bank: 3359601000003