“The authorities are now working intensely to ensure everything remains under control—they’re investigating why this disaster occurred and promising every possible action to prevent it,” said Wakseyoum Idosa, president of the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus (EECMY).
“It’s clear certain extremists are trying to use religion as an instrument for disturbing the peace and working hard to use the ensuing conflict for political ends,” Idosa said. “This is what we are hearing from people in the areas affected.”
The 49-year-old Protestant pastor was speaking after touring scenes of communal violence in the western Oromia region, where Muslim groups went on a rampage against Christians on March 2.
In an ENInews interview March 11, he said he had seen private homes and congregation buildings pulled down and burned, and spoken with evangelical Christians displaced by the violence.
He added that the Oromia regional government had deployed troops and police, and said his church was working with Ethiopia’s federal Islamic supreme council and its local representatives to restore peace.
“We’re very satisfied with the cooperation given by Islamic leaders, while the government seeks to identify the causes of the violence,” said Idosa, whose church members number 19 percent of the country’s 83 million people, according to the 2007 census. Sunni Muslims account for 34 percent of the populace and 44 percent are members of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, the official state denomination until 1974.
At least one Orthodox Christian was killed and dozens injured when thousands of Islamic protesters launched the attacks in and around Asendabo, 190 miles west of Addis Ababa, after accusing a local Christian of tearing up a copy of the Koran.
The U.S.-based Compass Direct News agency, which monitors persecution worldwide, said March 7 that 59 churches and 28 homes had been burned and at least 4000 Christians forced to flee.
Among buildings affected, the agency named 12 belonging to the EECMY and six Seventh-Day Adventist facilities, as well as 38 churches, a Bible school and two offices belonging to the Ethiopian Kale Hiwot Church.