“I’m a witness to unspeakable suffering, death”: Bishop in Ethiopia on Tigray, Wants Pretoria Peace Pact Implemented

Bishop Tesfaselassie Medhin of the Catholic Eparchy of Adigrat in Ethiopia. Credit: CBCE

The Bishop of Ethiopia’s Catholic Eparchy of Adigrat, which covers the Tigray region has witnessed firsthand the “unspeakable suffering” and even death of the people of God in the embattled region of the Horn of Africa nation.

In a statement that ACI Africa obtained Friday, April 19, Bishop Tesfasellassie Medhin pleads for the implementation of the 2 November 2022 peace agreement in Pretoria, South Africa, in which the Ethiopian government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) pledged to “permanently silence the guns and end the two years of conflict in northern Ethiopia”. 

“I am writing as a religious leader with deep concern, and feeling for the pain of tens of millions of our population in the country, especially the children, elders and women of Tigray,” Bishop Medhin says. 

He paints a grim picture of the situation of the people of God in Tigray, saying, “I am a witness to unspeakable suffering, despair, disease, and death around me due to years of conflict, drought, and localized rain failure as well lack of attention to meet basic needs.”

Violent conflict in the Tigray region started in November 2020 when TPLF allegedly launched an attack on Ethiopia’s Federal Government Army base in the region.


TPLF and people in the Tigray region were reportedly opposed to Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s bid to centralize power in Africa's second most populous country.

In his statement that ACI Africa obtained on April 19, Bishop Medhin says that millions of people as well as hundreds of thousands of refugees have been displaced following the conflicts not only in the region of Tigray but also in neighbouring Afar, Amhara, and Oromia regions.

He says that the concerted efforts of his Episcopal See in partnership with other entities in reaching out to the needy are insufficient.

“We see the human face of the statistics all receive via reports: rising malnutrition, less than half of needs met last year, and even less commitment to meet needs in Tigray this year,” says Bishop Medhin.

He highlights the apostolate of the pastoral agents of Adigrat Eparchy, saying, “We embrace children so under-nourished that they appear skin and bones, listen to families who are struggling to provide even a portion of a single meal each day, and every month morn hundreds of beloved community members dying of diseases they might not have succumbed to were they not suffering from severe hunger.”

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“Our problem is holistic - social, political, economic, psychological, and spiritual - for the whole Tigray and also for the neighbouring populations who are in a similar situation,” the 71-year-old Ethiopian-born Catholic Bishop, who has been at the helm of his Adigrat Eparchy since his Episcopal Ordination in January 2002 says.

He highlights the Catholic Church teaching on human dignity as important and emphasizes the need to protect the vulnerable. Bishop Medhin says, “Every human being is a beloved child of God, deserving of equal dignity and care.”

He goes to decry the negative effects of environmental degradation, saying, “In the coming months, we face very serious climatic change impacts to be hitting us this year - foreboding unpredictable rains, drought and flooding.”

While Bishop Medhin acknowledges with appreciation the efforts being undertaken to alleviate the suffering of Tigray people, he cautions, “We need not wait for a truly catastrophic situation to occur before sounding the alarm - we are sounding the alarm now.”

“The population of Tigray and neighbouring regions have suffered years of war, drought, and disease - and have demonstrated a resilience few can believe - and we pray that we make it through this crisis,” he says.


Bishop Medhin appeals for the implementation of peace, He says, “I make this plea to the respective national and international governments and community for relieving the suffering and reduce the dying from such dire situations - and for speeding up the implementation of Pretoria Peace Agreement for peace.”

Silas Mwale Isenjia is a Kenyan journalist with a great zeal and interest for Catholic Church related communication. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Linguistics, Media and Communication from Moi University in Kenya. Silas has vast experience in the Media production industry. He currently works as a Journalist for ACI Africa.