Almost 60 per cent of Ethiopians are Christian – that’s 67.5 million people. Sadly, though, many Ethiopian Christians are persecuted by fellow Christians, if they belong to a different denomination.
In Ethiopia, persecution is often dependent on what kind of Christian you are or where you live. Because of the government’s special relationship with the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, other denominations – especially Evangelical and Pentecostal Protestants – are persecuted by the state and Orthodox Church. Christians who change denominations and leave the Orthodox Church are subject to family and community pressure and can face significant mistreatment. Additionally, churches can be restricted from holding religious gatherings.
The other major factor for persecution in Ethiopia is Islamic extremism. Particularly in the eastern and southeastern parts of the country, converts to Christianity from Islam can be harassed and oppressed by their families and surrounding communities. In some regions, Christians are denied access to community resources and experience ostracism and discrimination. Additionally, some Christians are vulnerable to violence when Islamic extremists attack churches and homes.
Christian women face the additional risk of being forced to marry non-Christians and then expected to follow the religion of their husband. And if a woman converts to Christianity in a non-Christian area, it is likely she will be divorced by her husband and possibly lose custody of her children.
“After I received Jesus, my burdens let me. Suffering had been my life, but it all became easier.” Manayesh
Manayesh grew up in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, but without really knowing Jesus. When Manayesh’s mother became a Protestant, she shared the gospel with Manayesh – who accepted Jesus as her Saviour. “After I received Jesus, my burdens left me. Suffering had been my life, but it all became easier.”
Her suffering became easier because Jesus helped carry her burdens – but Manayesh was also harassed by the Orthodox Church, who threatened her. When her husband died, they told her she must leave the Protestant church or leave the area.
Thankfully, local Open Doors partners were able to support Manayesh, giving money for her farming livelihood. “I praise the Lord’s name, for He prepared this support for me. If I did not receive this help, my life would have been in danger. My children and I would not have survived.”
Ethiopia has risen three spots in the 2021 World Watch List, largely because of an increase in violence against Christians. During the Covid-19 pandemic, Christians have been overlooked in the distribution of government aid.
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 to strengthen Christians in Ethiopia with persecution survival training, economic empowerment, livelihood training and legal support.
Heavenly Father, we ask You to protect and preserve Your people in Ethiopia. We pray for unity among Your people, and ask that Jesus’ command for unity would be embraced by all Christians. We humbly ask that You would sustain those believers who are discriminated against and oppressed, and that You would encourage and give them hope when they are tempted to despair. Amen.
Your support helps persecuted Christians continue to courageously follow Jesus.
Together, we can reach those where persecution hits hardest.