Ethiopia: They Died Because of Their Love for Jesus and Family

The story of three Ethiopian martyrs who claimed Christ and sought better lives for their struggling families to the end

By Troy Augustine and Abebe Kibret

04/29/15 Washington, D.C. (International Christian Concern) – On April 19, the world witnessed the brutal execution of approximately 30 Ethiopian and Eritean Christians, killed by ISIS militants in Libya. The war-torn country has become a stronghold for the jihadist group, and they have declared a war on local Christians. One could question, “Why would these men risk entering such a dangerous area?” This is the story of three of those men, and what led to them being martyred as Christians in Libya.

Life in impoverished Ethiopia is grueling. While the economy has grown more than ten percent per year over the past decade, the average income in Ethiopia is still less than two dollars per day. Facing this kind of financial strain, Eyasu Yekuneamlak, Balcha Belete, and Eliyas Teshane and their families are left to scrape by through any possible means – even if the best option available is to literally risk their necks by traveling to Europe or the Middle East, crossing through the terrorist-infested Libyan desert.

These men made that difficult decision to leave their homes to pursue better chances to provide for their families. They died claiming the Name of Christ to the end.

Best Friends Martyred Together

Eyasu Yekuneamlak and Balcha Belete were best friends growing up in the impoverished Cherkos neighborhood of Ethiopia’s capital city, Addis Ababa. At age 31, Yekuneamlak was responsible for caring and providing for his weak and destitute mother. As the youngest in the family, he was tasked with covering his mother’s expenses, a tradition most Ethiopians hold. Since his mother was unable to work for herself, Yekuneamlak drove a taxi and served as the main breadwinner for the family.

But, driving the taxi proved insufficient for his family, so the financial stress forced him out of Ethiopia to seek better employment abroad. He first worked in Qatar, where he regularly sent money back to Ethiopia to support his ailing mother, younger brother, and sisters. However, when he disagreed with his Muslim bosses, Yekuneamlak was imprisoned and deported back to Ethiopia. He was left to search for other work in Europe where he might not face that kind of mistreatment. The best way to get there was going through Libya and from there, crossing the Mediterranean Sea on a boat. Yekuneamlak never got that far.

Yekuneamlak’s best friend, 35-year-old Balcha Belete, worked for the Ethiopian Electric service provider. However, his older brother says that Belete was dissatisfied with the working conditions and sought to make more money to support his family.

“Their only dream was to get out of poverty,” Yekuneamlak’s brother Siyume said. Therefore, the two men left their families in Cherkos, determined to seek greener pastures. They traversed through Sudan before crossing into Libya where ISIS kidnapped them.  Both men died refusing to deny Christ.  They were both shot executionstyle in the head from point-blank range somewhere in the Libyan desert.

He Died Supporting His Ailing Father

Eliyas Teshane, 27, had just graduated college and hoped to make money to care for his father, Ato, who is suffering from mental illness. The best way Teshane knew how was to travel to Europe and put his college education to good use, reaching the earning potential his new degree offered him to support his sister and dad.

Unfortunately, Teshane never made it, as he was captured and slaughtered for his faith.

“At first, we taught our kids to follow the Word of God, hoping to be blessed in our life and trying to abstain from any bad people. In the end, they died and we will die in the name of Lord. So, our eyes look to God,” Ato Teshane said.

International Christian Concern (ICC) is working to provide relief assistance to Teshane who needs continual medical care. The Teshane family is just one of the 30 affected by the barbarous acts of ISIS. ICC urges all who are concerned to please pray and consider giving to assist the families of the ISIS video victims.

The men who died without denying Jesus showed themselves faithful to the end, modeling what the Bible teaches that a godly life looks like: “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” (2 Timothy 3:12 ESV)

For interviews Please Contact Troy Augustine, Regional Manager for Africa: rm-africa@persecution.org

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