How many Christians are there in Ethiopia?
Christians make up the majority of Ethiopia – 65.8 million out of a population of just over 110 million, or about 60 per cent.
Why are Christians persecuted in Ethiopia?
Despite being the majority of the population, Christians face persecution in all spheres of life. This comes from the government, radical Muslims and, sadly, even from other Christians: the Ethiopian Orthodox Church considers itself the only ‘true’ denomination, and sometimes persecutes members of other denominations.
“I go places where no one else dares to go. But God is my shepherd. He is the one walking with me.” Berhane, an Ethiopian evangelist
What’s life like for Christians in Ethiopia?
Setting up religious broadcasting services or teaching about religion in schools is illegal. Christians are persecuted across Ethiopia, but the most vulnerable are those in rural communities – where Christians can be denied access to communal resources, ostracised by their neighbours or attacked by extremists – and believers who have converted from another faith, whether Islam or a tribal religion.
Berhane grew up following Waaqefanna, a traditional religion practised by the Oromo people. When she was ill and wasn’t being healed, she sought out a Christian she knew – and eventually chose to follow Christ. When her parents found out, they threw her out of the house. For six years she was exiled from her family who regarded her as unclean.
“Every time I was chased out by the community, I would wait four or five months before trying again to make contact,” remember Berhane. “On the odd occasion that I made it into my parents’ compound, they would wail and shout for me to leave. I was crying because I missed them, but they kept themselves far from me.”
Amazingly, Berhane is now an evangelist who has planted nine churches – and her mother has become a Christian, along with 100 members of Berhane’s extended family! Her life is still in danger, but she remains courageous and determined.
The coronavirus has further exposed Ethiopian Christians to vulnerability. “Because of Covid-19, the church is in great trouble,” Pastor Adane* said in August. “While churches were closed as part of government lockdown, nobody could come to church. We had no income to pay the pastors and evangelists. Before, there were people who helped support ministry workers, but now they have stopped. The church used to have many streams of income… It has all stopped.”
Many Christians have been deliberately overlooked in the distribution of aid. This especially affects those from Muslim backgrounds, many of whom have been told they will only receive aid if they recant their faith.
How can I help Christians in Ethiopia
Please keep praying for your brothers and sisters in Ethiopia. Your gifts and prayers make an enormous difference to those following Jesus no matter the cost.
Open Doors works through local partners and churches to equip Christians in Ethiopia, like Berhane, with theological, discipleship and persecution survival training, relief aid, trauma care and livelihood support.
*Name changed for security reasons
Father, in the face of increasing Islamic extremism, please protect Your children in Ethiopia from attack. We pray for greater unity between Christians of different denominations, and that the church will shun divisions based on ethnicity. Give wisdom to Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, and grant him the means to improve the human rights situation in Ethiopia.