Government Gets Ready to Block Churches With Fewer Than 6000 Members

A church building under construction in central Ethiopia, Nov. 2016.
A church building under construction in central Ethiopia, Nov. 2016. (World Watch Monitor)

Ethiopia's northern Tigray State is considering adopting a new law that would restrict Christian activities to within official church compounds, rendering illegal the activities of smaller churches that do not own their own buildings and gather in houses.

The law, if passed, would most affect Christians from outside the Ethiopian Orthodox Church because any church that wanted to have its own land would need to prove that it had at least 6,000 members—a greater number than the total population of non-Orthodox Christians in the state.

The law would also ban Christians from evangelizing outside of church compounds.

Local church leaders have raised their concerns about the law with the state government but have yet to receive a reply.

A similar law was recently ratified in neighboring Amhara State which, together with Tigray, is home to most members of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, and local church leaders fear other states will copy the move.

Protestant Population Growing

Over the past decade Ethiopia's religious map has changed considerably. For centuries Ethiopia, which some argue was the first nation in the world to accept Christianity, consisted of an Ethiopian Orthodox Christian core, a Sunni Muslim zone in the east and an animist/indigenous-faith area in the south and the lowland reaches of the far west. In the last 10 years, indigenous faiths have diminished, in most cases yielding to Protestant Christianity, which is said to be the fastest-growing religious group in Ethiopia. This is making the country home to "one of the fastest-growing evangelical churches in the world", wrote theologian Allan Anderson in 2014.

Some former members of the Orthodox Church have also become Protestants, creating tension between the two communities.

While Ethiopia's increasingly controlling government seeks to further restrict religious institutions, to prevent dissent, Christians also face oppression from family members and the local community in other parts of the country, for instance in the Afar and Somali regions where ethnicity and Islam are interconnected.

An example is the story of Tutu, a widow, and her son, Biruk*, who live in a Muslim-dominated community in the south-western state of SNNP and have faced troubles since Tutu's husband passed away, 18 months ago.

After his burial, local Muslims dug up his body and dumped it by the side of the road. In January, Biruk was assaulted and told that he and his mother would continue to face trouble until they converted to Islam. On March 4, their house was burned down.

Tutu and Biruk's story is not uncommon. Generally, attacks on Christians in Ethiopia seem to be increasing. According to reports received by World Watch Monitor, in March alone there were 11 attacks on Christians, affecting approximately 250 people (see map below).

The judicial system also often works against Christians in Ethiopia, particularly in areas where they are the minority. For example in February three Christians, falsely convicted and imprisoned for burning down an Ethiopian Orthodox Church building in the rural community of Gulema Iyesus in May 2014, were acquitted by the Supreme Court and freed, but still ordered to pay for damage to the church, valued at the equivalent of over U.S. $40,000 at the time of sentencing.

This article originally appeared on World Watch Monitor.

To contact us or to submit an article, click here.

Get Charisma's best content delivered right to your inbox! Never miss a big news story again. Click here to subscribe to the Charisma News newsletter.

Five ways to deepen your relationship with God, increase your faith and save money!

  • Deepen Your Relationship with God with a FREE eCourse: Click Here to view all of our free e-Courses. Favorite topics include Fear, Forgiveness, Holy Spirit, Supernatural, and How to Hear God.
  • Super Discounts and Close-Out Specials: Click Here to view all our bundles and close-out specials and save up to 86%! Prayer, Holy Spirit, Anointing, the Supernatural and more.
  • God Wants to Anoint Women Now: Rise up and enter the anointing of Deborah, Anna, Esther, Ruth and Hannah. You were called to go higher. Click Here to learn more.
  • Change Your Atmosphere and Circumstances Through Prayer! John Eckhardt's prayer bundle gives you six powerful books to help you pray and change any situation. Click Here.
  • HUGE Bible Sale!: Click Here to save up to 50% off a great selection of Bibles. Plus, get a free gift with each order!

Subscription Special: Subscribe to Charisma for Only $24.97 and get a free gift. With your subscription, you'll receive Born For Significance by best-selling author Bill Johnson. View Offer

Attention Pastors and Leaders: Leadership training and development are crucial for success. Enroll in a FREE 1-hour leadership mini-course by Dr. Mark Rutland. View Details

Charisma News - Informing believers with news from a Spirit-filled perspective