Abba Sereqeberhan WoldeSamuel, a Tigrayan Orthodox Tewahedo monk serving in Australia, has been held in detention at Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa since July 10, 2023. This incident has raised serious concerns regarding the discriminatory treatment of Tigrayans and the ongoing tensions within the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, particularly in relation to church administration.
Abba Sereqeberhan, who was en route from Australia to his hometown of Mekelle in Tigray, has been held in detention for the past three days. During his interview with Tigray Television today, he expressed his confusion regarding the reasons behind his detainment. He described the difficult conditions he has faced, including a lack of basic needs such as food, water, and rest, which have taken a toll on his physical well-being.
Despite his efforts, Abba Sereqeberhan has been unable to contact security officials or government agencies to gain insight into his situation or file a complaint. When he inquired about the reasons for his detention and expressed his desire to reunite with his family, he was informed that he was not permitted to travel to Tigray. His only options were to return to his point of origin, Australia, or to leave the airport and enter Addis Ababa, potentially leading to further consequences, including possible imprisonment.
The detainment of Abba Sereqeberhan WoldeSamuel has sparked widespread outrage among various organizations and individual Tigrayans within Tigray and around the world. They have come together to condemn his detention and voice concerns about the ongoing structural racism and discriminatory treatment faced by Tigrayans in Ethiopia. These issues have persisted since the rise of Abiy Ahmed to power in 2018 and have particularly worsened since the outbreak of the war against Tigray on November 3, 2020.
It is widely known that the Ethiopian and Eritrean armies and Amhara regional militias have deliberately targeted and bombed churches in Tigray, resulting in numerous casualties, including monks and priests. During that time, the Ethiopian Orthodox Church officially supported the perpetrators and endorsed their genocidal acts of violence in Tigray.
The church had also arrested and dismissed Tigrayan priests, proudly endorsing the war. These actions have prompted Tigrayans to seek the establishment of a separate church administration within Tigray. Currently, the Ethiopian Orthodox Church has officially requested the federal government to intervene and prevent the establishment of a separate church administration in Tigray.
As of now, it is unknown whether Tigray’s Interim Regional Administration has engaged with authorities in Addis Ababa regarding Abba Sereqeberhan’s detention. This situation underscores the urgent need for a resolution to the ongoing racism and discrimination faced by ethnic Tigrayans in Ethiopia.