An Christian Ethiopian teenager recently imprisoned and brutally beaten by Muslims for distributing a book about Christianity has been arrested again shortly after release.
The World Watch Monitor reports four teenagers- Eden (15), Gifti and Mhiret (14) and Deborah (18) were arrested in early October after giving people a Christian book in Amharic (Ethiopia’s main language). The book was by a local author entitled, “Let’s Speak the Truth in Love: Answers to Questions” and it was by Ahmed Deedat.
The book answers common concerns about the Christian faith posed by the deceased African Islamic scholar and previous head of the Islamic Propagation Center International. Christians in Babile decided to distribute it following a cross-cultural evangelism training program.
Things Turned Ugly
Local Muslims, however, were not very enthusiastic about the book as they believed that it insulted Islam. On September 19 a group attacked the Protestant Meserete Kristos Church in Babile damaging doors and windows.
Officials arranged a meeting between the religious leaders the next day. Leaders of the MKC and the Full Gospel Church apologized for distributing the book and distanced themselves. After the meeting, police arrested a man (Bekele), Deborah, Eden, and Eden’s mother. Eden was beaten her first night in prison.
A wider public meeting on the same day had town officials criticizing “some people” who wanted to incite a religious clash. They warned that further measures would be taken against such people. A local Christian challenged this, and now has to report to police regularly. Police want him to apologize for his sentiment, but he has refused.
During the evening, the Full Gospel Church was attacked and suffered similar damage to the MKC.
Threats continued as 20 Muslim youth reportedly visited the residence of the MKC leader and threatened him that if he didn’t leave the area, he would risk death and damage to his property.
According to World Watch Monitor, the girls faith has not been shaken.
“This [suffering] is an honor for us. We should expect persecution. We are not afraid. We are singing and praying here in prison,” Eden said. Deborah added, “It is an honor to be jailed for God’s Kingdom”.
They were finally released after paying 3,000 Birr ($135 USD) to the court, but Deborah was re-arrested shortly after for reasons unknown.
Religious Atmosphere in Ethiopia
Ethiopia has a population of 99.4 million. 20% are Christian evangelical, 40% are Ethiopian Orthodox, and 34% are Muslim.
Ethiopia reports that it guarantees freedom of religion, yet evangelicals repeatedly undergo discrimination, harassment and persecution. Ethiopia is ranked 18th out of 50 countries that is most difficult for a Christian to reside in according to Open Doors.
Ethiopia has tribes that do not like Christians. Afar and Somali regions contain tribes that are connected to Islam. The report says that the ruling party has blocked channels for freedom of expression and assembly. It has also attempted to control religious institutions in an attempt to curb dissent.
September of this year saw a similar case when 34 year old Christian Habiba Ibrahim was sent to hospital after her husband beat her for leaving Islam. She had only been a Christian for about a month when her husband discovered that she had converted.
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