Believers facing extreme persecution in western Ethiopia
By Marvin Schrebe
More than half of Ethiopia is Christian but there are pockets in the East African country where Christians are the minority and subject to persecution. Currently Ethiopia is ranked 22nd in the world of countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian according to World Watch, an organization that tracks these countries and rates them. Open Doors, a Christian charity, recently visited a village in western Ethiopia and learned of the extreme persecution believers face there.
One young man named Wasihun told Open Doors that his was the only Christian family in the village. Therefore they face constant threats and insults from their neighbors who practice animism. Animism is the doctrine that all natural objects and the universe itself have souls.
The neighbors threatened to kill his father, and later did because he refused to participate in the rituals of animism.
"On the day before the night my Dad was killed, it was raining. We worked the whole day and got home late. That night people came...and stabbed him," Wasihun told Open Doors.
Wasihun’s family still seeks justice for his father’s murder but has received none. Wasihun was only 7 years old when his father was killed. He recalled clinging to his father's legs trying to pull him away from his attackers. He said he and his 15-year-old sister tried to cover the wound on their father's neck as their mother sought help but were unable to save his father’s life. As his father lay dying Wasihun heard his father’s last words. "Be strong. Look after your sisters and brothers."
In spite of what happened, Wasihun said their family are stronger than ever in their faith.
"When [my father] died, we all gave up. We thought we had no hope," he said.
"But the Lord ... helped us survive through the storm and even made us lead a more financially stable life. We never had the clothes and shoes we have now. God provided for us. God is more than a Father to us," he told Open Doors.
Wasihun's sister added: "When our opponents bully us, we kneel down and pray to God to give us patience."
Stories like this one are not uncommon. Open Doors also reported on another woman persecuted and killed by her Muslim husband.
Workitu, a Christian woman with a Muslim husband told the leaders of her church about the abuse she suffered at the hands of her Muslim husband, who demanded that she deny her faith. When she refused to do so, he killed her.
Her church had advised her to write a letter to local police authorities explaining the abuse and asking them to intervene. She wrote the letter in February and reported the abuse to local police and government officials, telling them she feared for her life. According to sources the local officials ignored the letters and now deny having ever received an appeal for protection.Her husband and a neighbor, both Muslim, became angry because she refused to deny Christ and demanded that she sell drought relief aid that she had received from the government for her family. When she refused to do so they began beating her and continued to do so even after she had collapsed. Villagers took her to the hospital where she remained for four days. When she became worse the hospital transferred her to another hospital and she died during the transfer.
What her husband and the neighbor meant for evil however God has used for good. (Genesis 50:20). Wokitu’s sons, aged 17 and 20 told Christian leaders they wanted to know more about Jesus since they had seen their mother refuse to deny Him. Eventually they and another villager who was a close friend of Workitu committed their lives to Jesus Christ.
"Workitu is like Stephen," commented a local evangelist. "Her death was honored by the bringing of her sons to new life. I know she would have been extremely delighted had she witnessed her son's' decision to follow Christ."
The account of Stephen is found in the book of Acts, chapter 7. Like Workitu, Stephen refused to deny Christ and was martyred as a result. As he was dying Stephen asked God not to hold the sin of his murder against his killers and asked that God receive his spirit.
Photo: In this photo of Friday June 9, 2017, Ader Ali Yusuf, center, a mother of 12 who was displaced from her village due to the ongoing drought in Ethiopia, sits among a group of women as an international delegation visits the Warder town of Ethiopia's drought stricken area near the border with Somalia. Ethiopia's government is warning it will run out of emergency food aid starting next month as the number of drought victims in the East African country has reached 7.8 million. (AP Photo/Elias Meseret )