Militias in a Somali region attacked ethnic minority institutions - Several Ethiopian Orthodox priests were killed - Local Catholic Bishop: Somali rebels attacked exclusively places of worship and killed only Christians
Rome-Addis Ababa (kath.net/KAP) The recent violence in eastern Ethiopia appears to be particularly affecting local Christian churches and their faithful. According to local sources, the Vatican press service "Fides" reported that at least six Ethiopian Orthodox priests had died in riots in the Somali region. Already at the beginning of the week, Patriarch Abuna Mathias had lamented an unnamed number of slain priests and arson attacks on several churches. The exact number of civilians killed is still open.
The Catholic Bishop Angelo Pagano told Fides that he had just blessed a chapel in a suburb of the provincial capital of Jijiga last Saturday when riots broke out. He observed a fire in a nearby Orthodox church, said the Apostolic Vicar of Harar. As he tried to approach in his priest's robe, young men armed with sticks began throwing stones. Later, an Orthodox priest had already been found dead, he was apparently able to take away another injured priest along with the village elder, the bishop said.
The next day, it was found that at least eight Orthodox churches were set alight in the Vicariate of Harar and priests, deacons, and church workers were killed. Also, the new Catholic chapel he had blessed the day before had been destroyed, Pagano reported: "They could not set them on fire because they were made of bricks, but they destroyed everything we could not take, icons, crucifixes, power generators.”
The source of the violence is a conflict between the regional government of Somalia, which NGOs have in the past repeatedly accused of human rights violations against their opponents, and the Ethiopian government under the new Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed. While Abiy’s predecessor gave regional governor, Abdi Islley a mandate to take steps to prevent the Islamic Al-Shabaab militia from neighboring Somalia from advancing on Ethiopia, Ahmed had announced comprehensive reforms in the region, said the "Austria Press Agency" Rashid Abdi, of the International Crisis Group. The regional government is now worried about its unrestricted power, the expert said.
According to "Fides" service, under the command of Regional President Abdi Illey, the notorious “Liyu police” disrupted a regional assembly meeting in the provincial capital, Jijiga, last week, which was dealing with human rights violations in the region. The Ethiopian military then surrounded the building of the regional parliament and the presidential palace of Abdi Illey. As a result, members of the Liyu police would have attacked targets related to ethnic minorities.
Abdi Illey is now believed to have been arrested and taken to Addis Ababa. On Monday, he had called the local Christian religious representatives to his office, as the Catholic bishop Pagano reported on Thursday to "Fides". "He said he wanted peace, and he told us to tell our believers not to take revenge because the vandals were criminals," as Pagano was quoted. The bishop, on the other hand, pointed out to Abdi Illey the religious background of the attacks. "He should have seen how the Somali rebels behaved, attacking places of worship and killing only Christians," the bishop said.
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