Split In The Ethiopian Orthodox Church

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By Karen Smith

Three months after the two-year Ethiopian civil war came to an end, displacing millions, the Orthodox Church is facing a split. Three bishops have announced that they will form a separate church with its own decision-making body.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali has criticised “bigotry by religion and place of origin” focused on divisions”, according to Europe External Programme with Africa (EEPA), a Belgium-based Centre of Expertise with in-depth knowledge, publications and networks, specialised in issues of peacebuilding, refugee protection, and resilience in the Horn of Africa.

He said, “currently, the political commodity and political marketplace of racism and bigotry by religion and place of origin is focused on divisions. When you go one step lower from Ethiopianism, it is humiliation, disintegration and chaos”.

He also criticised that social media caused a divide in Ethiopia “by area, religion and ethnicity and also by small localities”.

As a result of the split, all bishops of the Orthodox Church (in Ethiopia) have been called to convene in Addis Ababa. The breakaway church has appointed more than 20 new bishops.

One of the breakaway bishops, Abune Sawiros, said ”they made the move to save those followers of the church who were led by clergy that was not diverse or inclusive and who did not understand their language”.

The aim of the breakaway church is that the bishops would replace those currently appointed in the region of Oromia and parts of southern Ethiopia.

BBC reported the head of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Abune Mathias, expressing his concern and denouncing the split as illegal. Other bishops called the split “a conspiracy to divide believers on the basis of ethnicity”.

Patriarch Abune Mathias previously communicated his concerns on the suffering of the civilian population during the conflict in Tigray. The Ethiopian Prime Minister called on the Ethiopians to work to reaffirm its internal unity and pass on the state to their children, reports Mereja.com

According to Military Africa, Ethiopia has bought 32 Chinese SH-15 (PCL-181) artillery systems. The artillery is a self-propelled Howitzer reportedly used by the Peoples Liberation Army of China.

Military Africa stated, “the Ethiopian Army continues to reinforce its [sic] capabilities to be better prepared for the next conflict, likely with Egypt of [sic] Sudan.”

Besides, Ethiopia has repatriated 31,919 migrants from Saudi Arabia since the second half of November 2022, reports Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporation (EBC).

Situation in Tigray 

Situation in Tigray on January 24 was highlighted by the Tigray regional government President Debretsion saying that Eritrean and Amhara forces are still occupying the territories of Tigray and “torturing people”. He was speaking in a regional council meeting held in Mekelle. The statement was broadcast on Tigray Television.

Dr Debretsion described the continued presence of Eritrean and Amhara forces as “a threat to the peace process”. While he acknowledged that the forces have started withdrawing, he called for their full and swift withdrawal.

He also stated that the regional government is fulfilling its duty as per the peace agreement by carrying out the disarmament and disengagement of its forces. He also mentioned that, despite the peace agreement, no significant step has been taken to return internally displaced people to their homes.

54.000 Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Abiy Addi are suffering from a severe shortage of food and medicine supplies, local officials told Addis Standard. Due to the severe shortages, some IDPs have been forced to move to other areas, says EEPA report of the situation. 

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