The country on the Horn of Africa is a land of many contrasts. Ethiopia’s population of nearly 102 million is divided into more than 100 different ethnic groups with different cultures and languages. There is strong economic growth, but also abject poverty. In recent years, Islam has become radicalised in some regions – often with support from abroad. There have already been repeated attacks against Christian churches. Most recently, in the summer of 2020, massacres were committed against Orthodox Christians in the Oromia region. ACN supports the local Church with financial aid for education and training, youth pastoral care and the construction of churches.
With 58% of the population, Orthodox Christians are in the majority in Ethiopia, but the proportion of Muslims is increasing and currently stands at 34%. Catholics make up barely 2% of the population. Nevertheless, the Church runs many schools, kindergartens and social institutions. Especially in areas of first evangelisation, where people still belong to traditional tribal religions, there are many baptisms.
But like so many countries in Africa, Ethiopia is also repeatedly hit by outbreaks of violence. In a massacre of Orthodox Christians in the summer of 2020 in the western Ethiopian Oromia region alone, 239 people were killed, according to official reports. In the north of the country, on the other hand, since November 2020, the central government has been fighting against regional militias of the “Tigray People’s Liberation Front”, whose goal is the self-determination of the Tigray ethnic group.
Many people have fled the violence – at least 50,000 of them to Sudan. The civil war threatens to destabilise the entire Horn of Africa region. Communication with the crisis region is cut off, and the fate of the local bishop and that of priests and religious in the war region is uncertain. For ACN, those who proclaim the faith were once again the centre of focus in Ethiopia in 2020. For instance, we supported numerous projects for the education and training of priests, religious and lay people, as well as the implementation of pastoral programmes.
The situation in northern Ethiopia is alarming
Pastoral care for young people is very important to us; among other things, it contributes to young people wanting to work for a better future in their homeland instead of leaving the country. The construction of churches and chapels was also once again on our funding list in the reporting year, for these contribute to a sense of identity in the parishes. In addition, we helped to procure suitable vehicles for pastoral care in the vast areas of the country.