The head of Ethiopia’s Orthodox Church has accused government forces of carrying out “genocide” in the country’s Tigris region, where a Six months of conflict Thousands of people are believed to have been killed between federal and allied forces and forces loyal to the former ruling party.
In a video shot on a mobile phone last month and released from Ethiopia, the elderly patriarch Abiun Mathias addressed millions of church followers and the international community, saying his previous attempts to speak were blocked.
“I am not clear why they want to declare genocide on the people of Tigris,” the patriarch, a Tigrian ethnic group, said in his speech.
Listing the alleged atrocities, including church destruction, genocide, forced starvation and looting, he added, “They want to destroy the people of Tigris.”
“It is not the fault of the people. The whole world should know this, “he continued. “This bad season can be cut short,” he said, urging international and local action.
The comments are reprehensible condemnation from someone so old in Ethiopia, where the state media reflects the government’s narrative and intimidates and harasses both independent journalists and Tigris. The video also comes a few weeks ago in Ethiopia, which has faced multiple crises of occasional deadly ethnic tensions and is set to hold national elections on June 5.
Dennis Wadley, who runs the US-based Bridge of Hope organization and has been a friend of the church leader for several years, told the Associated Press news agency that he captured the video in an emotional moment while visiting him in the Ethiopian capital, Addis, last month. Dad.
“I just pulled out my iPhone and said let’s do it if you want the word out,” Wadley said after arriving in the United States on Friday. “It simply came to our notice then. I actually hugged him; I’ve never done that before. ”
A church official reached out to the video on Friday and publicly confirmed Abiun Matthias’ interest. The patriarch of the church is working alongside the recently returned expatriate Abiun Mercorios.
“I have said many things but no one has shared this message. Instead, it is being suppressed and censored, ”Abun Mathias said in the video.
He says there has been “a lot of brutality” throughout Ethiopia these days, but “what is happening in Tigris is the highest level of brutality and cruelty.”
Everything God will judge everything, he added.
Former Ethiopian Foreign Minister Barhan Zebra-Christos told Al Jazeera that the cleric has long spoken out against injustice and that his words carry “huge weight” inside and outside Ethiopia.
“This is a highly respected patriarchy of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and the Orthodox Church of the world,” said Barhane, a member of the People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) in Tigris, who was nominated by the Ethiopian parliament this week, a “terrorist” organization.
“He has spoken to the Ethiopian people and at the same time he has appealed to the world, the international community, to take the right and firm steps,” Barhane added.
Fighting broke out in Tigra in early November 2020, when, according to the government, TPLF-loyal forces attacked army bases in the area. The government has denied the allegations in a statement issued Friday stating “Similar, baseless allegations concerning the TLPF have been made more than once. A TPLF spokesman denied that the group had gone on strike for the first time.
The Ethiopian government has said it is “deeply disappointed” by the deaths of civilians in Tigra, blaming the TPLF and claiming that normalcy is returning to the region of about six million people. This has led to widespread denial of profiling and targeting of Tigris.
Eyewitnesses, however, said in multiple credible reports that they saw bodies floating on the community soil, Tigris rose up and were expelled, and women were raped by Ethiopians and Allied forces from neighboring Eritrea. Others have described family members and colleagues, including priests, who have often been subjugated and detained without charge.
The church was the scene of the massacre – a deacon from Axam told the AP that he believes about 700 people were killed in and around the church in the week of November – and mass graves.
“People were thrown to the ground like leaves,” the ancestor said of Axam, one of Ethiopia’s holiest cities.
Born in 1942, Abu Mathias is outspoken in the past. In 1960, he became the first church leader to condemn Ethiopia’s communist regime and was “forced to live abroad for more than thirty years,” according to the UN refugee agency.