Wednesday, March 9, 2011

098. Ethiopia: Muslims stage massive pogrom

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 098 | Wed 09 Mar 2011


-- 59 churches and 28 homes torched; more than 4000 Christians displaced, one killed.

By Elizabeth Kendal

On Wednesday 2 March a massive pogrom erupted in Asendabo, Ethiopia, some 280km (175 miles) south-west of Addis Ababa. International Christian Concern and Compass Direct News report that local Muslims attacked Christians after some Muslims accused a Christian of desecrating a Qur'an. As the violence escalated, Christian leaders called for extra security. However, the security forces the authorities dispatched were simply unable to rein in the rampaging mob of some 10,000 enraged Muslims. After two days of violence in Asendabo, Muslims attacked the surrounding villages of Chiltie, Gilgel Gibe, Gibe, Nada, Dimtu, Uragay, Busa and Koticha. By 7 March the toll on the Christian community stood at 59 churches, one Bible school and 28 homes torched, with more than 4000 Christians displaced and one dead. A Christian pastor in Addis Ababa told Compass Direct News on 7 March, 'The atrocity is still going on, and many more people are suffering.'

To have such momentum, the pogrom appears to have been planned, incited and orchestrated by hostile elements. The claim a Qur'an was desecrated is suspect, being a common pretext for a terror campaign, aimed at putting the Christians in their place. According to the Qur'an they are to be 'utterly subdued' and realise their lives are in the hands of the Muslims:'Fight against [them] . . . until they pay tribute out of hand and are utterly subdued.' (Sura 9:29). This may be a result of local radicalisation in the ravaged Jimma Zone (Oromiya regional State). Jimma Zone is 83 percent Muslim where persecution with impunity is escalating. However, it could also be that Muslims, led by local fundamentalist clerics, have been influenced by events in Pakistan and were keen to make a statement of their own. The violence could also have been in retaliation for the Ethiopian army's involvement in the current military offensive in Somalia.

Deeply concerned by Somalia's deteriorating security and the corresponding escalation in piracy, Western powers have been pouring large sums of money into Somalia's UN-backed Transitional Federal Government (TFG) specifically to boost its military. During the last week of February the TFG unleashed its long-awaited military offensive against al-Qaeda-backed al-Shabaab and its ally Hizbul Islam, launching a co-ordinated offensive on three fronts simultaneously: (1) in Mogadishu, where Africa Union peacekeepers are fighting house-to-house, pushing back insurgents but suffering heavy losses; (2) in Beledweyne (alt. Belet Weyne), Central Somalia, where Ethiopian-backed TFG and allied Alhu Sunnah Wal Jama'a (ASWJ) forces remain locked in battle with al-Shabaab; (3) in Bulo Hawo (alt. Belet-hawo), Southern Somalia, which TFG and ASWJ forces have wrested from al-Shabaab control, but only after the Ethiopian military shelled the area in defence of besieged Ethiopian-trained TFG forces.

Like the government, the Ethiopian Army is dominated by Ethiopian Orthodox Christian ethnic Tigrayans. As such, many Oromo Muslims tend to regard Ethiopia's involvement in Somalia as having both ethnic and religious overtones, when really it is a simple matter of regional security. Ethiopia's ethnic Oromo are doubtless further agitated by the army's recent arrest of 110 Oromo Liberation Front separatist guerrilla fighters in the border town of Moyale. With Islam rising, with ethnic federalism consolidating and with war raging, Ethiopia is fast becoming a deeply divided state where Christian minorities are increasingly at risk.


* that God will still the violent sectarian storm in Jimma Zone, Oromiya, Ethiopia (Psalm 65:5-8).

* that the massive violence will result not in Muslim superiority and domination (as is intended) but in shame and repentance (as it should). 'With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.' (Matthew 19:26 ESV)


* that Yahweh Sabaoth (Lord of Hosts, the commander of heaven's forces) will intervene to protect and deliver his imperilled Church; and to fight and bring down all those who want her dead , for his glory, for the sake of his Church, and for the sake of the millions of impoverished, war-weary Somalis who desperately need her (Jonah 4:11 ESV).



On Wednesday 2 March a massive pogrom erupted in Asendabo, Ethiopia, some 280km south-west of Addis Ababa, after local Muslims accused a Christian of desecrating a Qur'an. The violence spread to surrounding villages and after five days of Islamic rioting -- involving some 10,000 enraged Muslims -- the toll on the Christian community stood at 59 churches, one Bible school and 28 homes torched, with more than 4000 Christians displaced and one dead. The police have been unable to contain the ongoing unrest. Ethiopia includes some large, restive Muslim tribes now emboldened by ethnic federalism. As Islam rises, so too does persecution of Christian minorities, who are increasingly without remedy in what is fast becoming a more profoundly divided and conflicted nation. Please pray for the Church and the nation.