February 8, 2023
His Excellency Joe Biden, President of the United States
His Excellency Vladimir Putin, President of the Russian Federation His Excellency Xi Jinping, President of China
Her Excellency Roberta Metsola, President of the European Parliament His Excellency Antonio Guterres, UN Secretary General
His Excellency Mackey Sall, Chairperson of the African Union
His Excellency Moussa Faki Mahamat, Chairman of the African Commission His Excellency Koker Turk, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Juanita Goeberitus, Director, Human Rights Watch
Dr. Agnes Callamard, Secretary General, Amnesty International
Dr. Elisa von Joeden- Forgey, Co-Founder and Co-President, Lemkin Institute for Genocide Prevention Daniel Bekele, Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC)
Subject: Appeal to the International Community to take Corrective Actions Against State Sanctioned Religious Persecution in Ethiopia
We are submitting this appeal on behalf of the Beza Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Global Group, a faith based, and non-profit, civil society organization affiliated with the Ethiopian Orthodox Church Synod and located in the United States of America. Like tens of millions of Ethiopians across the world, our membership is hugely disturbed by the explosive situation in Ethiopia. If not addressed immediately, we believe it will lead to a catastrophic religious and ethnic civil war that will engulf the entire Horn and Eastern Africa.
We are especially alarmed by the level of lawlessness, persecutions, and targeted killings of innocent civilians, wanton destructions of Church property, theft, graft, corruption, and gross human rights violations.
The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo (EOTC) is one if the oldest Churches in the world with more than 60 million followers. The EOTC is the second largest Orthodox Church after the Russian Orthodox Church.
The EOTC initiated and implemented a robust program of spreading the gospel by tapping into different local and indigenous languages including Afaan-Oromo. It strengthened the diversity profile of the Church by promoting and appointing Bishops and other senior members drawn from different nationality groups.
The EOTC has an unmatched track record in the field of education. It created the unique and one of a kind Geez Alphabet and taught Ethiopian citizens to read and write; document and record for succeeding generations the country’s remarkable, rich, and diverse cultures, histories, state, and government formations. Before advances in modernization fueled by technological and biological innovations, the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church (EOTC) served a huge social purpose to its members and non-members by providing health services using traditional medicines and methods.
During times of external aggression against Ethiopia, the EOTC played pivotal roles championing, mobilizing, and defending Ethiopia’s territorial integrity, sovereignty, and national independence. In recognition of this essential role of the EOTC Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed had declared rightly while on a visit to the USA that the “EOTC is Country.” In other words, Ethiopia’s very survival depends on the autonomy and continuity of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and its Synod.
State Interference and Religious Persecution Intensified
The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, the Lemkin Institute for Genocide Prevention, and numerous others provide a plethora of evidence that religious persecution and undue political interference in the affairs of faith groups has reached an alarming level over the last five years and has worsened since January 2023.
Ethiopia’s ethnicity and language-based Constitution and Administrative structure contribute hugely to targeted ethnic killings, ethnic cleansing, land grab, displacements of millions, nepotism and favoritism as well as corruption. Tragically, this phenomenon had now spread to the EOTC.
Religious persecution and deliberate destruction of Churches and monasteries is not new in Ethiopia. We cite the following prominent as illustrative:
•In the 10th century, Queen Yodit Gudit carried-out the burning of churches and monasteries and the destructions of invaluable manuscripts of the EOTC.
•In the 16th century Ahmed Gragn (the left-handed) applied a scorched earth policy of burning churches and monasteries and all properties held by the Church and slaughtering members of the Church who resisted.
•In the 17th century, Emperor Susneyos attempted to use his considerable powers to convert
Ethiopia’s religion from the Eastern Orthodox faith to that of Catholicism.
•The battle of Adwa in 1896 and the battle of Maichew in 1935 were fought for the soul of Ethiopia with which the EOTC is intricately and organically associated and identified.
Events since he took power show the current Ethiopian government led by Abiy Ahmed embraces the worst aspects of Ethiopia’s debilitating past. His regime is carrying out egregious atrocities, persecutions, and relentless intimidations of Christians with singular focus on the EOTC as an institution as well as against the Amhara ethnic group.
Abiy Ahmed has a track record of dismantling Ethiopian institutions. He dismantled the Islamic Sharia, sponsored, and replaced it by an illegal group in violation of the current constitution that separates Church and State and recognizes the independence and autonomy of all faith groups—EOTC, Islam, Protestant, Catholic and others.
Today, Ethiopia’s 122 million people are going through one of the most perilous times in the country’s long and distinguished history.
We are fully cognizant that the international community agrees on the imperative that all members of the UN system must accept, promote and defend the universality and indivisibility of human and civil rights as well as the importance of accountability for crimes against humanity.
We urge the international community to help stop faith and ethnic-based killing by airing its concerns directly to the government of Ethiopia. At stake is not just the integrity of the EOTC and Synod—we believe it will survive as it has done for more than 2,000 years. Equally, the international community must recognize that Abiy Ahmed and his Oromo dominated Prosperity Party are pushing Ethiopia towards catastrophic collapse and fragmentation.
As we write this letter to you, millions of ordinary Ethiopians including non-EOTC members are holding daily vigils and prayer sessions asking for divine intervention, urging Ethiopian government leaders to listen to them and urging Abiy Ahmed and his cabinet to refrain from targeting Orthodox Christians and avoid potential civil/religious war.
Accordingly, the undersigned:
1.Believe that the international community including multilateral donors can no longer acquiesce to recurring ethnic slaughters, beatings, persecutions, killings and executions, tortures, incarcerations of EOTC Bishops, priests and members as well as destructions and plunders of EOTC properties.
2.Call on each of you to condemn state and non-state sponsored atrocities and religious persecutions and demand an end to politically motivated fracturing and dismantlement of the EOTC, an icon in Ethiopian society. This policy move will avert the unthinkable—an all-out religious civil war followed by the collapse of Ethiopia that will affect the entire region.
3.Urge you to leverage your diplomatic and financial clout and demand Ethiopian government, state and non-state actors cease targeting, harassing, persecuting, torturing, maiming, and killing leaders and followers of the EOTC immediately and unconditionally.
4.Implore you to use your good offices and urge the Federal Government of Ethiopia led by Abiy Ahmed to immediately stop gross interference in the internal affairs of the EOTC.
5.Urge you to flag your concern to the government of Ethiopia that dividing the EOTC based on ethnicity is irresponsible, dangerous, and will set a very bad precedence.
We believe that it is high time for the international community in general and for the UN system and the AU to hold Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and his government accountable for crimes of war, crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity and crimes emanating from religious persecutions of the EOTC.
We condemn state-sponsored religious persecutions and call on all Ethiopians and their friends across the globe to continue to hold vigils, protest and provide material and financial support to members of the EOTC affected by the current mayhem.
EOTC Shall Prevail!
Ethiopia Shall Prevail!
Dr. Ambachew Worreta
Chairman, Beza Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Global Support Group
President Sahle-Work Zewde, Ethiopia
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali, Ethiopia
Deputy Prime Minister Demeke Mekonen, Ethiopia