Ethiopia

Although Ethiopia is a Christian majority country, complex religious and ethnic tensions combined with political and civil unrest mean that pressure on Christians is very high.

Ethiopia

World Watch List Rank World Watch List Score
22 64/100
Leader Population
Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn 104,345,000 (65,737,400 Christians)
Main Religion Government
Christianity (mainly Orthodox) Federal republic
Source of Persecution Persecution Level
Islamic extremism/Ecclesiastical arrogance Very High Persecution

In areas such as Afar and the Somali regions, where ethnicity and Islam are interconnected, Christians face discrimination and even violence from their families and communities. The government is becoming more authoritarian and has brought in laws restricting the areas religious institutions can engage in. Sadly, fanatical elements of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church also attempt to undermine other denominations.

PERSECUTION IN ETHIOPIA

When Belen decided to leave Islam and follow Jesus, her husband left her and their three children and married another woman, leaving Belen without financial support. Her situation was then made harder when her brother accused her of stealing money from him, and had the courts force her to 'repay it'.

"You are losing in all directions," her brother told her. "I suggest you repent and return to your original faith. You should have agreed to do so long ago."

But Belen refused to deny her faith in Jesus, saying: "Jesus may appear slow in responding to my plight, but He is working quietly but surely."

Opposition to converts is common in Ethiopia, particularly for believers from a Muslim background. Members of mosques and converts' own families will monitor their activity and fabricate false accusations to take to the police. In areas where Muslims make up the majority, they often deny Christians access to communal resources and Christians can be overlooked for employment or promotion.The government also restricts freedom of religion, as they fear that the influence of religious groups could easily bring about a regime change; Christians are seen as foreign agents. Laws have been brought in to limit the activities religious groups can engage in, and security and administration issues are used as a reason to discourage missionaries from travelling within the country.

Sadly, the church itself is also a source of persecution in Ethiopia, with some fanatical elements of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church (EOC) restricting other denominations. Members of the EOC have used government connections to do this - for example, non-EOC churches must register with the government - but they have also physically attacked members who have left the EOC for (mostly) Protestant churches.

But life for Belen has improved. With the support of Open Doors, she now has a small business running a coffee shop, and is able to support her family. She says: "I would have been in prison and my children would have wandered in the streets if you haven't reached out to me... The hands of God are with me. I am tested, and people hate me and tell me to leave Jesus, but that will not happen because I have seen His mercy."

HOW WE HELP

Through local partners and churches, Open Doors has been active in Ethiopia since the late 1980s. Our work is focused around equipping Christians for the work of ministry, as well as helping Christians to deal with the emotional and physical results of persecution. This includes:

  • Preparing believers for persecution and offering relief in certain cases
  • Livelihood support
  • Cross-cultural evangelism training and support
  • Management training for church leaders
  • Theological and discipleship training.

PRAYER POINTS FOR ETHIOPIA

  • For greater freedom for the church, and that it will be able to build positive relationships with the government
  • For unity within the church - that they would work together to expand God's kingdom.
  • Ethiopia saw massive protests and violence in 2015 and 2016 and has been under a state of emergency since October 2016. Pray for greater stability and freedom for Ethiopia's people.
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TAKE ACTION

  • Pray for those that are suffering by reading the latest prayer requests from persecuted Christians around the world.
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  • Advocate for persecuted Christians by signing the Hope for Middle East Petition.
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  • Consider donating your resources to Open Doors.
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