Officials in the south Ethiopian city of Besheno are looking the other way as Muslim mobs in the city put death threats on the doors of Christian villagers, according to organizations that work in the area.
The door-mounted death threats are only the latest incidents in a series of acts of intimidation that include taking away church property, beating evangelists and killing family members.
International Christian Concern’s Jonathan Racho says the list of violent acts against Christians is growing.
“Christians in the southern Ethiopian city of Besheno are being harassed and physically abused after Muslims posted notices on the doors of the Christian homes, warning the Christians that they had to convert to Islam, leave the city or face death,” Racho stated.
“This is a very serious threat against Christians where the majority in this city are Muslims,” Racho added.
“There are approximately 30 evangelical Christians living in that city,” Racho explained. “The rest have moved away.”
The number of Christians in Besheno sounds small, but there used to be more.
“After the threats by the Muslims, three Christian leaders were forced to flee the city. Two Christians have been forced to convert to Islam. Several other Christians have come under attack,” Racho detailed.
“A Christian evangelist remains in critical condition after Muslims attacked him and about 100 Muslims attacked another group of Christians, injuring Christian leaders. The Christian leaders were on their way to negotiate for peace with Muslim leaders,” Racho added.
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“So the situation of Christians in that small Ethiopian city of Besheno is rapidly deteriorating and we are concerned about what is happening there,” Racho said.
Racho adds that the remaining Christians in the city have no place to worship.
“Local officials appeared with guns and said they can’t come to the church. They even can’t bury their dead because there’s no cemetery for Christians,” Racho commented.
“The local officials denied them. When a Christian girl died, the mother was forced to take her for burial to a cemetery in a city that was 20 miles from the city of Besheno,” Racho added.
Racho explains that the significant detail is that the persecution is done with the apparent approval of local government.
“They ignore the appeals from Christians for justice, for equality and for freedom of religion. The local government officials are militant and they don’t care about the plight of the Christians,” Racho asserted.
Racho emphasizes again that the only recourse left to some of the Christians is to leave.
“There are some remaining, but they are living like a Dhimmi. Dhimmis are people in Islamic lands who are treated like second class citizens. So the Christians who are remaining behind are living like second class citizens in their own country,” Racho explained.
“It’s very heartbreaking because Ethiopia is a Christian majority country,” Racho observed. “But there are places in Ethiopia where there are cities with Muslim majorities.”
“When Muslims are in the majority, they persecute Christians,” Racho added.
The CIA World Factbook and the Joshua Project, a Christian missionary think tank, both report that Christianity is the majority religion in Ethiopia. Slightly more than 43 percent are Orthodox and 18.6 percent are Protestant evangelicals. Muslims make up one third of the population.
Racho says Ethiopia’s majority Christian demographic adds urgency to the need for an international response to the wave of anti-Christian violence.
“The Christian majority is why we want to highlight this situation. We hope the central government, the federal government, will rectify the situation by taking legal action against all the Muslims who have persecuted Christians,” Racho stated.
“This is why we’re asking people to call the Ethiopian Embassy in Washington, D.C.
Racho adds that pressure from the national government is probably the only way to get Muslim local officials to stop the persecution.