Evangelical Christian Arrested for Disagreement with Orthodox Church in Ethiopia

ICC Note

An evangelical Christian in Ethiopia has been arrested and sentenced to seven months in prison for offending the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. His offense was answering a question asked by orthodox people who felt his statements were an attack on the faith. One of the leading persecutors of Christians in Ethiopia is the Orthodox Church due to its significant sway in society and government. The Orthodox church’s power has helped create a national identity that does not allow for conversion. 

02/12/2018 Ethiopia (WorldWatchMonitor) A judge in southern Ethiopia has sentenced an Evangelical Christian to seven months in prison for “causing outrage to religious peace and feeling” following accusations believed to come from members of the predominant Ethiopian Orthodox Church (EOC).

The judge in the city of Arba Minch handed down the sentence on 2 February to Temesgen Mitiku Mezemir, 24, the leader of an Evangelical fellowship group.

Just under half of Ethiopia’s population belongs to the EOC, a symbol of Ethiopian national identity, whose leaders play a prominent role in state and religious affairs. However relations between the EOC and the fast-growing Evangelical churches are often strained, characterised by mutual suspicion.

Mezemir was charged on 23 January after some EOC members had asked him his view of the tabot, a replica of the Ark of the Covenant sacred to Orthodox Christians. He reportedly told them to compare Orthodox accounts of the tabot with information about the Ark of the Covenant on the Internet.

After the hearing Mezemir and some other Evangelicals were reportedly attacked outside the court, while police failed to intervene. Five of the Evangelicals were injured.

Five Evangelicals were injured after the hearing on 23 January (World Watch Monitor)

At the 23 January hearing the court expected to hear the prosecutor’s witnesses, but in a highly unusual turn of events, the judge instead invited court attendees to give their opinion of the accused. After the hearing Mezemir and some other Evangelicals were reportedly attacked outside the court, while police failed to intervene. Five of the Evangelicals were injured.

 

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