March 13, 2010

2009 Human Rights Report: Excerpt About Religion

(Deje Selam; March13/2010):- The annual US Human Rights Reports has mentioned the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church. Deje Selam singled out the Report's parts where the Church and religion is referred. Let us read this excerpt and discuss.
"... On July 9, unidentified individuals beat Addis Neger journalist Abraham Begizew, who was attempting to report on a disagreement within the leadership of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church (EOC).

On August 24, Asrat Wedajo, former editor of the now-defunct weekly Seife Nebelbal, was convicted in connection with a 2004 story alleging human rights violations against ethnic Oromos. The Federal High Court sentenced him to one year's imprisonment based on provisions of the Press Proclamation of 1992, notwithstanding that a new media law had superceded it in December 2008.

In February 2008 police arrested Al-Quds publisher Maria Kadi Abafita, Al-Quds editor in chief Ezeddin Mohammed, and Salafia publisher and editor in chief Sheikh Ibrahim Mohammed Ali following their publication of articles critical of a Ministry of Education directive on religious worship in schools. On July 27, the Federal High Court acquitted Maria Kadi Abafita, fined Ezeddin Mohammed 10,000 birr ($800), and sentenced Ibrahim Mohammed to one year's imprisonment.

There were no developments in the March 2008 case of Dawit Kebede, editor in chief of the weekly Awramba Times, who was accused by the National Electoral Board (NEB) of violating the electoral regulations by posting an advertisement for his newspaper on a poster promoting EPRDF candidates for local elections.

There were no developments in the May 2008 case of Alemayehu Mahtemework and three staff members of the private Amharic monthly entertainment magazine Enku. The government accused them of publishing "stirring articles that could incite people" and held them for five days before release. Alemayehu was also charged with threatening public order. The magazine continued operating during the year.

In July the Federal High Court acquitted Addis Neger editor in chief Mesfin Negash of the defamation charges against him. In July 2008 the EOC had sued Mesfin for defamation in connection with the newspaper's reporting on an ongoing EOC embezzlement case. There were no developments in the August 2008 cases of Dawit Kebede and Wosseneged Gebrekidan, charged with inciting the public through false rumors for publishing articles about the Ginbot Seven, an opposition political group advocating change in the government by any means. Both were released on bail.

c. Freedom of Religion

The constitution and law provide for freedom of religion, and the government generally respected this right in practice; however, local authorities and members of society occasionally infringed on this right. The EOC and Sufi Islam are the dominant religions; 80 percent of the population adhered to one or the other faith. Religious organizations, like NGOs, must renew their registration with the MOJ every three years. The EOC and the Ethiopian Islamic Affairs Supreme Council (EIASC) did not reregister and did not face government sanctions, prompting some religious groups to complain of a double standard.

In accordance with the CSO law, religious organizations that undertake development activities must register their development wings separately as NGOs and follow the strict new guidelines of the CSO law.

Various religious groups seek the return of real property confiscated from them by the government between 1977 and 1991. In Addis Ababa and Oromiya, buildings that had been registered under federal statutes have been returned; however, structures registered under regional statutes were not returned.

Unlike previous years there were no reports of minority religious groups reporting discrimination in the allocation of government land for religious sites. Authorities continued to ban Waka-Feta, a traditional animist Oromo religious group, because it suspected that the group's leaders had close links to the OLF. Protestant groups occasionally accused local officials of discriminating against them when they sought land for churches and cemeteries. Evangelical leaders charged that because authorities perceived them as "newcomers," they were at a disadvantage compared with the EOC and the EIASC in the allocation of land.

On June 30, police in Dessie town (northeast Ethiopia) shot and killed Mesfin Worku, Dawit Defaru, and Bizuye Hussein, who were among a crowd demonstrating after being forced to stop unlawful construction of a church at a site that Muslims claimed was their burial ground. Several were injured in the ensuing violence. On July 7, the head of the Dessie EOC Diocese Aba Gebreselassie was arrested on charges of inciting violence. He was released on bail after seven days, and no future court appointment had been scheduled. No one was charged in connection with the three deaths. Orthodox and Muslim leaders in Dessie blamed the government for its nonresponsiveness in resolving the land dispute and for conveying conflicting messages to each side.

In December 2008 police opened fire at a public gathering near a church in the southern city of Arba-Minch, wounding three individuals. Police were reportedly attempting to disperse a crowd following a disagreement between Orthodox priests. No arrests were made by year's end.

Societal Abuses and Discrimination

In most regions Orthodox Christians and Muslims generally respected each other's religious observances, and there was tolerance for intermarriage and conversion in certain areas. However, there were some highly publicized religious conflicts that heightened tensions and precipitated government intervention. Some victims in these and other instances of religious conflict sought protection from local authorities.

On January 8-10, a series of localized religious clashes in Dire Dawa in the eastern part of the country left one dead and 20 injured. In one neighborhood Muslim youth, reportedly angry about Israeli attacks on Gaza, threw stones at Christian youth who were singing religious songs in the street during the EOC Christmas holiday. Christian youth retaliated by throwing stones at Muslims until police intervened. These violent clashes spread from one neighborhood to another.

The EIASC continued to express concern over the allegedly increasing influence of Saudi-funded entities within the Muslim community, which the EIASC blamed for exacerbating tensions between Christians and Muslims.

On February 16-17 and April 23-24, the MFA held forums in each regional state, which included representatives from local government, security bureaus, and police commissioners, to build inter-religious understanding and resolve sectarian conflicts.

The Jewish community numbered approximately 2,000, and there were no reports of anti-Semitic acts.

For a more detailed discussion, see the 2009 International Religious Freedom Report at"

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ነጻ ፓትርያርክ ምርጫ ቢሆን ኖሮ ማንን ይመርጡ ነበር? እንበልና ሁሉም ነገር ሥርዓቱን ጠብቆ የተከናወነ የእጩዎች ምርጫ ቢሆን ኖሮ፣ አሁን የምናነሣቸው ጉድለቶች ባይኖሩ ኖሮ፣ 6ኛው ፓትርያርክ እንዲሆን የምትመርጡት ማንን ነበር? (ማሳሰቢያ፦ አሁን ያለው ክፍፍል እና የመንግሥት ተጽዕኖ ባይኖር ኖሮ ተብሎ የሚመለስ ጥያቄ ነው። የምን “ባይኖር ኖሮ ነው” የሚል አስተያየት ካለዎትም እናከብራለን።)