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Muslims jailed for attacks on Christians in Ethiopia

Country/Region: Ethiopia, Middle East and North Africa

Ethiopian courts have sentenced 579 Muslims to jail terms of up to 18 years for their part in the widespread anti-Christian violence in which scores of churches and homes were burnt down, and thousands of Christians were displaced.

Ethiopia-Church-destroyed-2nd-4X3.jpg
Scores of churches and homes were burnt down in the anti-Christian violence

Three Christians were killed and many more were injured in the barrage of attacks, which started on 2 March and continued for a week, after Muslims accused a Christian of desecrating a copy of the Quran. Thousands of Islamists were involved in the assaults, which broke out in Asendabo, Jimma Zone, before spreading systematically through five districts in the predominantly Muslim area. Around 10,000 Christians were forced to flee their homes as the rampaging Muslims set fire to 69 churches, 81 Christian homes and a Bible school. Barnabas Aid sent a grant of £25,000 (US$40,000, €28,000) to provide food, medicine, shelter, blankets and clothing for those affected by the violence.

Now, 579 Muslims have been sentenced to prison terms ranging from three months to 18 years for their part in the attacks. An additional 107 people are to face terrorism charges in connection with the violence. Eight individuals suspected to be among the masterminds of the assaults remain at large.

In May, a Barnabas Aid contact in Ethiopia expressed fears that the perpetrators would not be brought to justice after some suspects were set free.

If they get away with the burning of churches and they are not found accountable, what would stop them from causing harm to the Christians?

Speaking after the court result, an Ethiopian church leader said:

I am glad that the rule of law prevailed and the church has finally got protection from the government. The judges who looked at the cases have delivered justice. We are happy that the truth has finally been revealed.

Muslims comprise around a third of the Ethiopian population and have generally lived peacefully with the Christian majority. But Muslims are becoming increasingly radicalised by preachers who are promoting aggressive forms of Islam from countries such as Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. A Christian minister said there was a campaign to "clear Christianity from the land by [the] sword". Before the violence in Jimma, an Islamic conference was held where a fourfold plan to Islamise the area was outlined: burn the churches, kill the men, marry the widows and send their children to Islamic schools.

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christian, persecution, charity, church, persecuted, sookhdeo, Islam

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