ICC Note: Anyone who thinks Christians don’t face persecution in majority-Christian Ethiopia should look again. Seven Christian men have been released on $250 bail after being baptized and holding “illegal meetings in secret locations.” The Christians say they complied with the law, so they deny the charges. The men have been held in prison since April 25 when police raided their meeting. The number of arrested includes three church leaders and four new converts from Islam to Christianity who were recently baptized.
5/15/15 Assela, Ethiopia (World Watch Monitor) – Seven Ethiopian Christians have been charged with holding “illegal meetings in secret locations”, a charge they deny as they say they have fulfilled legal requirements.
The men were released on bail after a court hearing in the town of Assela, 100 miles south of the capital, Addis Ababa, on Monday (11 May).
Local church leaders clubbed together to pay the necessary bail charge of 5000 Birr ($250) each, after police were granted another week to conclude investigations.
The Christians were first arrested on Saturday 25 April, following an ordinary service, in which 40 new Christians were baptised. They insist the church had all the necessary approvals for gathering in place.
“They have informed government officials about their ministry and their meetings both orally and in writing,” said one local Christian, who wished to remain anonymous.
During the raid, an estimated 15 police officers surrounded the church’s meeting place, then arrested the three church leaders, before chasing after four of the newly baptised Christians, who had fled out of fear. The four are all from Muslim backgrounds and had faced pressure from their families to return to Islam. They were arrested at the local bus station.
Police also confiscated documents providing details on church membership. Church leaders say they are concerned the incident may lead to even greater pressure on the already vulnerable community of new Christians.