“They came to my home and began to knock on our door violently. We tried to escape with our children via the window. They burned my home and grain mill business. But with the kindness of God, I have been able to save my children from being burnt.” This was the testimony of Mrs Eniye Cheru, whose family survived when the Christians of Derra town in Ethiopia were attacked in the early hours of 30 June.
“They came to my home and began to knock on our door violently. We tried to escape with our children via the window. They burned my home and grain mill business. But with the kindness of God, I have been able to save my children from being burned.”
But hundreds of other Christians, from a wide span of ethnic groups, were killed in the coordinated attacks of late June and early July. Police stood by and watched as Christians were carefully selected and murdered, Christian homes and Christian businesses destroyed.
Thousands of Christians were displaced; many are still sheltering in church buildings, not daring to return home. Will you help them?
Planned and targeted
“These targeted genocides of Christians by Muslim extremists are going on unabated in the south, south-east and east of Addis Ababa,” wrote an Ethiopian Christian to Barnabas Fund on Wednesday (26 August).
The attackers were members of Qeerroo (literally, “bachelors”), a youth movement of Oromo men. The Oromo are an ethnic group who have traditionally been Muslim.
The anti-Christian violence was ostensibly triggered by the assassination of an Oromo singer called Hachalu Hundessa, who was shot dead while driving in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, at around 9 p.m. on 29 June. By midnight the attacks had begun in towns across Oromia regional state – attacks that showed the hallmarks of careful advance planning.
Some of the Qeerroo carried lists of Christians and went door to door, seeking the individuals to kill them. The emphasis was on those who were active supporters of the
Even Oromo Christians were targeted if they were recognised to be Christians. One Oromo Christian, Solomon Belayineh, was challenged by the attackers to tear off the thread around his neck, a thread worn by many Ethiopian Christians as a sign of their baptism. He refused to deny his faith in this way and was beheaded. His widow Yenenesh said, “The attackers said that it is only he/she who prostrates with us before Allah for prayer who is considered an Oromo.”
Connivance of the authorities
Armed with guns, machetes, swords and spears, the attackers arrived in the towns by car, and in some places had clear help from the local authorities, who are mainly Muslims in this part of Ethiopia.
In Assela, the chairman of the local residents’ association showed the incoming Qeerroo, unfamiliar with the geography of Assela, where a sawmill factory was, so they could set fire to it. When local people tried to extinguish the flames, police intervened to prevent them getting to the sawmill.
Desecrating the dead
In Bale Agarfa, Christians were horrified at the death of their fellow believer Aschalew Ababu whose eyes were gouged out, and his headless body left in the open. No one was allowed to retrieve the body until wild animals had eaten most of it.
But, also in Bale Agarfa, some Christian lives were saved by the brave efforts of Muslims who protected them.
In Gedeb Assasa, the victims included an elderly Christian couple, Teferi (87) and his wife Sinqinesh, who were beaten to death in their home. Then their bodies were hacked and dragged through the streets.
A Derra Christian, Mr Wegene Girma, described how the attackers played with the corpses of the Christians they had killed, “dancing and singing, carrying the chopped or hacked body parts of those they slaughtered”.
Your gift will help the survivors
The main needs of the survivors are food, household items to replace those that were destroyed, and assistance to rebuild their homes and re-start their businesses. Your gift of any size will help our Ethiopian brothers and sisters in their hour of trial.