Religious institutions satanizing people and blessing war in Ethiopia

By Kiros Hailesilassie

All religious institutions in Ethiopia played a role in the Tigray genocide. Leaders of Islam, Catholics and Protestants worked in complicity with the regime by providing full material and moral support. When the armed attack was launched against Tigray, they blessed the military.

However, their role goes back years before the outbreak of war, starting with the coming to power of prime minister Abiy Ahmed. Protestant pastors regularly taunted Tigrayans as ‘sinners’ who had offended God, and would be punished by him. This can be considered priming people to be subjected to persecution and dehumanisation, a stage which comes before actual extermination in genocide.

The role of the Orthodox Church in the Tigray genocide is particularly egregious. As a politico-religious institution that often seeks to ensure Amhara dominance, many have viewed it as one of the Church’s responsibilities to relentlessly work towards the subjugation of Tigrayans.

Elites within the Church, ranging from bishops to deacons, have given incendiary speeches that demonize Tigrayans as a collective, both before and after the outbreak of war. Men such as Deacon Daniel Kibret, MegabeHadis Eshetu, and Abune Meqarious are just a few examples of the most extreme cases.

Daniel Kibret has openly called for the extermination of Tigrayans, citing the successful genocide of Australian Aboriginal Tasmanians by British colonizers as a model.

This drew strong condemnation from the US State Department. He was appointed as a special advisor to the prime minister, apparently to please those nostalgic for their “glorious” and hegemonic past under previous regimes. Daniel made this speech in his official capacity as a special advisor to the prime minister of social affairs.

In the first weeks of the war, Deacon Daniel argued in the media that the fight was between Ethiopia, supported by God, and evil forces. When asked about the involvement of Eritrean troops, he replied, “There is no need to seek Eritrean support when we can drop ten bombs on each town,” suggesting that the people could be decimated easily to end the war.

Daniel Kibret has also been known to spread similar prejudicial speeches against religious and ethnic equality. At one church gathering, for example, he referred to Protestants as “Menafiqan,” which translates to “heretics” or “enemies of God.” On another occasion, he expressed his regret when he learned that an Oromo Christian had sung in a church in Oromiffa, regarding it as a sinful act of desecration.

MegabeHadis Eshetu, who happens to be blind, is a clergyman known for his well-crafted, eloquent, and sometimes enigmatic speeches. His views on religious and political matters have made him popular among Christian Amharas. On one occasion, MegabeHadis Eshetu stated that it was “God’s benevolence” that had set Tigrayans and Eritreans against each other and that Ethiopia (often synonymous with the Amharic-speaking population in Amhara consciousness) would be “in trouble” if peaceful relations prevailed between the two peoples.

MegabeHadis Eshetu speaks of God’s benevolence in setting Tigrayans and Eritreans against each other.

This statement was made against the backdrop of the apparent peace agreement signed between Eritrea and Ethiopia in 2018. It is little wonder that many people in the Amhara elite were concerned about the consequences of Ethio-Eritrean normalization and the potential for solidarity among Tigrinya speakers.

Leaders of the Addis Ababa diocese joined hands with the regime in the large-scale persecution of Tigrayan priests. They used the church apparatus to identify Tigrayan clerics during the period of mass detentions and persecution by the regime.

Abba Hitsan, a monk working in the Addis Ababa diocese, at one point complained that the government was “being lenient towards junta members hidden in the church” and called for severe punishment. He said the church was reporting by handing over the list of “juntas” among its members, only to be released soon by the government. Abba Hitsan would later travel to the front to “kill with his prayers as many juntas as possible,” as he boasted in the media.

Abba Hitsan calling for severe punishment of Tigreayans who are members of the Church.

Not just against Tigrayans, the Church is notorious for spreading outrageous doctrines against followers of other religions by branding them Menafiqan. Orthodox leaders can often be heard making hostile statements against others.

Yeneta Media’s journalist agreed with Aba Hitsan in blessing the war against Tigrayans.
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