“We lost hope and decided to stay and die at the church. We didn’t try to run,” said Abraham, recalling when Eritrean forces attacked the church in Dengelat village, in the east of Ethiopia’s Tigray region, at the height of a Christian celebration.
Although artillery rained down on the church roof, Abraham and his companions in the church survived, but many worshippers who fled up the mountain paths were shot dead by the Eritreans as they ran. Eritrean soldiers also went from home to home, shooting people on their doorsteps, young and old, male and female.
Troops from the massive army of Marxist Eritrea were massacring the Christian people of Ethiopia’s Tigray region. After three days of slaughter, ending on 2 December 2020, the Eritreans called on survivors to bury the bodies, many of them scattered across the surrounding farmland and already eaten by vultures. Over 100 people had died.
A crime against humanity?
Hundreds more Christian civilians had already been killed by Eritrean forces in Axum, in central Tigray. According to Amnesty International, it could amount to a crime against humanity.
Despite denials by the Eritrean government, details of these and other atrocities are now emerging, as internet is restored in Tigray and eyewitnesses are able to share their stories.
“Torture, killing, atrocities and overall deteriorating situation in Tigray region became day-to-day events. Forced removals and displacements, rape, human rights violations and abuses are another face of the situation,” emailed a church leader from Tigray to Barnabas Fund, describing the last four months.
Eritrea has a long track-record of brutal persecution of Christians within its own territory. It is often considered to be the second worst country in the world for Christians, after North Korea.
Scorched earth policy
Still the violence in Tigray continues. At least 508 buildings were seen burning in Gijet in southern Tigray in late February. In the same area, mango orchards were being cut down, irrigation systems destroyed and people killed from young children to grandparents.
The UN estimates that a million people have been displaced in Tigray. Christian schools and colleges are amongst the buildings now turned into makeshift camps for the newcomers. Many people are also staying in private homes. A church leader told Barnabas that his household has increased from four people to twelve as relatives from northern Tigray, whose possessions had been looted by the Eritrean troops, sought shelter with him in the regional capital Mekelle.
Food in Tigray is now desperately short. Famine has been predicted. Christian leaders from Tigray have appealed to Barnabas to send funds for:
- Trauma counselling
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