By Elizabeth Kendal
On Monday evening 29 June popular Ethiopian singer and champion of Oromo interests, Hachalu Hundessa (36), was assassinated in the capital, Addis Ababa. Hundessa's protest songs became anthems for millions of ethnic Oromo during the years of anti-government protests, which commenced in December 2015 and culminated in February 2018 in the resignation of Prime Minister (PM) Hailemariam Desalegn. A month later, the ruling Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (a four-party coalition) elected Dr Abiy Ahmed Ali (41) as Ethiopia's first ethnic Oromo Prime Minister. With an ethnic Oromo Muslim father and an ethnic Amhara Ethiopian Orthodox Christian mother, Dr Abiy is a convert to evangelical Protestant Christianity. A former soldier, he holds a PhD (2017) in conflict resolution. PM Abiy's reforms have been breathtaking and his brokering of peace with Eritrea earned him a well-deserved Nobel Peace Prize (2019). Like PM Abiy, Hachalu Hundessa was an ethnic Oromo Christian (Ethiopian Orthodox). While Hachalu supported PM Abiy's vision of a united Ethiopia and was critical of militant Oromo ethnic nationalism, some of his song lyrics were unhelpfully xenophobic.
Hachalu's assassination has triggered some of the worst ethnic-religious violence seen in Ethiopia in recent times. The violence appears to have been organised with the intent to destabilise the nation and derail PM Abiy's reform agenda. Though widely reported as 'ethnic clashes', the reality is that gangs of Oromo nationalists specifically targeted ethnic Amhara Ethiopian Orthodox Christians living in some 40 districts of Oromia region. According to Archbishop Habune Henok whose diocese is in Oromia's West Arsi zone, the pogroms began at 4am the next morning (30 June) and the dead, wounded and displaced are all ethnic Amhara Ethiopian Orthodox Christians. The killings were savage, with victims being clubbed, hacked and stoned to death. The official toll to date is 239 dead with some 300 wounded, many critically. More than 3360 Amhara Christians are now displaced and sheltering in churches. Along with businesses, 493 homes belonging to Amhara Christians were torched. The military was deployed and some 4700 arrests made, 1600 in Addis Ababa.
In Addis Ababa, violence erupted over Hachalu's body, with Oromo nationalists demanding he be buried in the capital, while his family, with the support of the government, insisted he be buried in his birthplace of Ambo, 100km west of Addis. Security personnel were forced to intervene when a group of Oromo nationalists - a group which included Jawar Mohammed (an Oromo nationalist leader and fundamentalist Muslim) - attempted to intercept and snatch the body. A policeman was shot and Jawar Mohammed (34) – who, despite having citizenship issues, wants to contest the next election in opposition to Dr Abiy [see RLPB 526 (30 Oct 2019)] - was arrested. Jawar Mohammed's appearance in court is bound to be explosive. Furthermore, on Friday 10 July Ethiopia's Attorney General told a press conference in the capital that two of three suspects were in custody and that the shooter has confessed that Hachalu's assassination was commissioned by the Oromo Liberation Front (Shane Group), a militant faction of the Oromo Liberation Front.
What is at stake is the future of Ethiopia itself. This is a battle between the vision of a strong and united, multi-ethnic, multi-religious Ethiopia versus the dream of ethnic nationalists to rule themselves in independent states. Three decades of ethnic federalism has hardened ethnic identities, resulting in ethnic nationalism and separatism. These movements tend to be led by ambitious politicians (often self-centred megalomaniacs) whose aim it is to ride to power on the back of victim-hood narratives. It must be stated that Jawar Mohammed's Oromo ethnic nationalism is also fuelled by his Islamic worldview, which is no doubt why many Oromo Christians (like Hachalu Hundessa) tend not to support it. In a country like Ethiopia where people have moved around, lived together and intermarried for centuries, ethnic nationalism establishes ethnic minorities; minorities at risk of discrimination, subjugation, slaughter and ethnic cleansing as is being demonstrated so tragically in Oromia.
For more detail, see
Slaughter in Oromia: The Battle for Ethiopia Heats Up
By Elizabeth Kendal, Religious Liberty Monitoring, 15 July 2020
PLEASE PRAY THAT OUR ALMIGHTY GOD WILL
* intervene to bring peace to Ethiopia, in particular at this time to Oromia region; may 'steadfast love, justice, and righteousness' prevail. 'For in these things I delight, declares the Lord' (from Jeremiah 9:23,24).
* comfort those who are grieving; heal those who are wounded; provide food, water, shelter and medical aid to those who are displaced, and impart wisdom, grace, energy and authority to those who seek to lead according to the will and purpose of the Lord.
* awaken Ethiopia's Oromo nationalists to the fact that separatism can only bring massive bloodshed; may God prick their consciences and fill their hearts with horror; may the Spirit of God draw multitudes of ethnic Oromo away from ethnic nationalism and towards Prime Minister Abiy's vision of a strong, prosperous, reconciled and united Ethiopia. Lord have mercy!
* complete the good work he has begun in Ethiopia; may all evil plots be thwarted; and may the Lord bless our brother PM Abiy with security, wisdom, insight, discernment and strength, all while keeping him humble with 'eyes fixed on Jesus' (Hebrews 12:2).
Prayer for Ethiopia: Psalm 140
UPDATE: TURKEY - THE FATE OF HAGIA SOPHIA For background and prayer points see:
RLPB 552, Erdogan Stokes the Fire of Islamic Zeal, 3 June 2020. http://rlprayerbulletin.blogspot.com/2020/06/rlpb-552-turkey-erdogan-stokes-fire-of.html
On Friday 10 July Turkey's Council of State ruled that the government decree of 1934, which saw the Church of Hagia Sophia (Holy Wisdom) turned into a museum, had been unlawful. President Erdogan immediately signed a presidential decree handing control of the 'Hagia Sophia Mosque' to Turkey's religious affairs directorate, Diyanet. The World Heritage listed Byzantine Cathedral will open for Muslim prayers commencing Friday 24 July. While some opine that Erdogan's move is designed to erase Turkey's Christian heritage, it really is more about Erdogan's Islamist fantasy of supplanting Christianity and replacing it with Islam - a fantasy that extends well beyond Turkey! For Erdogan, this is all about Islamic conquest which, as he explains in his public address on Hagia Sophia, is a benevolent act! The implications for Turkey's Christian remnant - most of whom are Armenian, Assyrian and Greek descendants of genocide survivors - as well as her Turkish and Kurdish converts from Islam, are obvious. Please pray.