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In Ethiopia, Muslims burn 69 churches
Melanie Clinton, Baptist Press
March 18, 2011

In Ethiopia, Muslims burn 69 churches

In Ethiopia, Muslims burn 69 churches
Melanie Clinton, Baptist Press
March 18, 2011

ASENDABO, Ethiopia — Muslims have killed at least one

Christian and wounded several others in anti-Christian violence in western

Ethiopia, according to International Christian Concern (ICC), an organization

that helps persecuted Christians worldwide.

ICC also is reporting that Muslims have burned down 69 church buildings, 30

Christian homes, a Bible school, a Christian orphanage and a church office.

The anti-Christian attacks started March 2 after Muslims allegedly accused

Christians of desecrating the Quran, the Islamic holy book. Violence continues

to affect residents of the area. During the initial days of the attacks 3,000

Christians were displaced; ICC reports those numbers now have climbed to

10,000.

Although Ethiopian Orthodox churches are predominant throughout the country, at

least the first 55 churches burned belong to evangelical denominations,

according to Sam Parkman*, a Christian worker who served in Ethiopia from

2007-10.

Mike Turner*, an International Mission Board (IMB) strategy leader in North

Africa, said none of the 55 churches identified thus far are Baptist. The

denominations of the 14 other churches have not been reported.

“What’s happened in Asendabo is unfortunate, and we are brokenhearted for the

people who have been affected by the attacks,” Turner said. “But it is not

unexpected, because the Lord Himself said we would face hard times and struggle

with hardships as we boldly follow in His steps.”

Photo by Charles Braddix

Christians are urged to pray for displaced believers in western Ethiopia, where Muslims have killed at least one person and burned 69 churches in anti-Christian violence.

ICC reported that military forces have been sent to curtail the attacks in

Asendabo and surrounding areas. Federal government officials removed the local

administrator, a Muslim, for his failure to protect the Christians. Voice of

America reported that Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi blamed the attacks

on a little-known Muslim extremist group called Kwarej. Some reports indicate

130 Muslims believed to be involved in the violence have been arrested.

Asendabo also was the scene of anti-Christian violence in 2006, when Muslims

killed more than a dozen Christians and destroyed several churches.

“Islamic radicals are fighting to establish an Islamic state in

Christian-majority Ethiopia,” ICC’s regional manager for Africa, Jonathan

Racho, asserted. “… Christians will continue to be killed unless the government

of Ethiopia starts taking serious measures to stop Islamists from carrying out

similar attacks.”

Turner, however, disagrees that Muslims have an agenda to take over the

country. “While I have seen Islam advance in (Ethiopia),” he said, “I do not have

any concrete evidence to support the notion that radical Muslims are trying to

make Ethiopia an Islamic state by using violence or any other means.”

Although Turner said he has no firsthand knowledge of what happened in Asendabo

or why, he speculated the attacks could possibly be credited to staunch Muslims

who are unhappy that Protestants in their area are growing in number.

Parkman said Muslims in Ethiopia are getting more vocal in hopes of boosting

their numbers. “They’ve stepped up their voice by doing events, like rallies,”

he said. “… Also, violence seems to be getting more and more frequent.”

Turner also said evidence of Islam is increasing. “You can see that visibly

just from the number of mosques going up,” he said. “And the more you get into

the culture and engage people in conversation, (you discover) there are more

Muslims than there used to be.”

Nearly 40 percent of Ethiopia’s 90.8 million people are Muslim, according to

the CIA World Factbook. An estimated 43 percent are Ethiopian Orthodox and 18.6

percent are Protestant. From the fourth century until 1974, the Ethiopian

Orthodox Church was the official state church.

“There are strong Islamic bases all around Ethiopia,” Turner said, referring to

nations like Sudan and Somalia. “But it has historically been a ‘Christian’

nation. If that was going to ever change … you’re talking about a massive

revolution that frankly I just don’t see on the horizon anytime soon.”

Meanwhile, ICC reports churches in western Ethiopia are struggling to provide

members with basic necessities like food and clothing. Organizations like ICC

and missions agency SIM are providing emergency relief.

Parkman’s wife Rebecca*, encourages believers to pray that Ethiopian Christians

will be “strong in the face of persecution” and “not back down” from their

faith.

“The church of Jesus Christ is going to continue to face opposition, whether in

Asendabo or Atlanta, Ga.,” Turner said. “Hard times will come, because the

Bible tells us they will. … Church buildings can be destroyed, but ultimately

it is the body of Christ that must look squarely in the face of opposition and

be encouraged by God’s Word that He has already overcome this world.”

*Name changed.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Clinton is a writer for the International

Mission Board based in Africa.)

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