National Catholic Reporter

The Independent News Source

Bishop: Interfaith tensions worsen in Ethiopia

OXFORD, England -- A Catholic bishop in Ethiopia said he thought interfaith tensions were worsening in western parts of the country.

After a rampage by Muslims left dozens of Christian churches in ruins, Christian leaders met and "pledged to prevent this from happening again," said Bishop Theodorus van Ruijven, the Dutch-born bishop of Nekemte. He also said Muslim leaders promised to help rebuild what was destroyed.

"But Islamic missionaries are coming from Somalia and preaching to local Muslims, telling them they'll be raised up and get to heaven sooner if they do something to strengthen the Islamic faith here," he told Catholic News Service in a March 17 telephone interview.

The bishop said Catholic churches were not directly targeted by the attackers, who destroyed Protestant and Orthodox churches and schools and ransacked private homes earlier in the month in Ethiopia's Oromia region. However, he added that the rapid expansion of Muslim communities had created tensions, fuelling wider uncertainties about the future.

"Catholics are just a small, quiet minority in this area, so Muslims have a different attitude to us, and we generally enjoy good relations with Muslim leaders," said Bishop van Ruijven. "But Protestant groups are much more conspicuous -- they are more excitable and make a lot of noise. This appears to have fuelled conflicts with Muslims."

envelope-gray-background.jpgLike what you're reading? Sign up for NCR email alerts.

At least one Orthodox Christian was killed and dozens injured when thousands of Muslim protesters launched the attacks March 2 in and around Asendabo, 190 miles west of Addis Ababa, after accusing a local Christian of tearing up a copy of the Quran.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi condemned the violence at a March 14 news conference and pledged "decisive steps" to prevent further disorder in the country, where Catholics made up just 1 percent of the population of 83 million in a 2007.

The Rev. Wakseyoum Idosa, president of the Ethiopian Evangelical Church, said Christians wanted "clear answers as to what happened," and said church leaders were working with Ethiopia's federal Islamic supreme council and its local representatives to restore peace.

"Followers of Christianity and Islam have been living here peacefully and harmoniously in mutual tolerance. But it's clear certain extremists are trying to use religion as an instrument for disturbing the peace and working hard to use the ensuing conflict for political ends. This is what we're hearing from people in the areas affected," he said.

NCR Comment code: (Comments can be found below)

Before you can post a comment, you must verify your email address at Disqus.com/verify.
Comments from unverified email addresses will be deleted.

  • Be respectful. Do not attack the writer. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the original idea will be deleted. NCR reserves the right to close comment threads when discussions are no longer productive.

We are not able to monitor every comment that comes through. If you see something objectionable, please click the "Report abuse" button. Once a comment has been flagged, an NCR staff member will investigate.

For more detailed guidelines, visit our User Guidelines page.

For help on how to post a comment, visit our reference page.

 

Feature-flag_GSR_start-reading.jpg

NCR Email Alerts

 

In This Issue

July 18-31, 2014

07-18-2014_0.jpg

Not all of our content is online. Subscribe to receive all the news and features you won't find anywhere else.