Catholic Nuns among Rape Victims in Growing Military Brutality in Tigray, Ethiopia

Map Showing Ethiopia's Tigray region. Credit: Public Domain

The Catholic Pontifical charity organization, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) International, has reported the gross violation of human rights in Ethiopia’s Tigray region where military have been accused of raping women including Catholic Nuns.

According to the Catholic charity organization, soldiers from neighboring Eritrea, who entered the Horn of Africa country to support the Ethiopian federal troops, are committing a chain of other atrocities including killing innocent civilians.

A source, anonymous for security reasons, described the current situation in Tigray where the killings target younger people as “a genocide.”

“This is clearly genocide against the people of Tigray. This is not just fighting; they are killing everybody. That is a sign of genocide. Many people are escaping from Tigray to Sudan and some of them, especially the young, are escaping because they are being targeted,” the source told ACN in the Wednesday, June 2 report.

The source added in reference to the perpetrators of the abuses, “They are deliberately targeting the young. Young people are killed, our ladies and women are abused with sexual harassment. That is a sign of genocide itself.”


The source was the latest to claim the attacks constituted genocide, following Patriarch Mathias, the head of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, who according to ACN, described events including the rape of women and the bombing of churches in the region as genocide.

Last November, fighting broke out in Tigray after Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed sent federal troops, with the support of troops from Eritrea, to fight the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which he accused of holding illegitimate elections.

The source went on to describe the spate of sexual abuse, which Tigrayan women, including Catholic Nuns, have been subjected to at the hands of troops from neighboring Eritrea.

“(Our relatives), our Sisters have been raped. Some of them we had to take to hospital, even Nuns have been raped. The women and the girls are receiving a different kind of abuse, like you’ve never heard before, things that are very bad. Some of the places that can help support us are closed by the soldiers,” the source bemoaned.

“The situation as you heard is very, very bad here,” the source told the pontifical charity organization in the June 2 report, adding that nearly 90 percent of people in Tigray are displaced.

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According to the ACN report, the most affected in the ongoing crisis are pregnant mothers, children, people living with disability, and elderly members of society.

“This war has brought about a huge humanitarian crisis, manifested by overwhelming numbers of civilian killings, the displacement of millions, the destruction of economic and social foundations, psychological pain and panic,” the source who spoke to the pontifical organization says.

The source stressed that the region desperately needed international support, saying, “The Church is everywhere. It is opening its hand. I remember Aid to the Church in Need…You are very kind. The current crisis in Tigray is unparalleled to any humanitarian crises that have happened in any date that we know of in memory.”

Since 2019, ACN has supported nearly 100 projects in Ethiopia including construction of Chapels and Monasteries, formation of Catechists and support for transport.

ACN’s help for Tigray has included emergency support for Nuns and Monks as well as Mass stipends.


Agnes Aineah is a Kenyan journalist with a background in digital and newspaper reporting. She holds a Master of Arts in Digital Journalism from the Aga Khan University, Graduate School of Media and Communications and a Bachelor's Degree in Linguistics, Media and Communications from Kenya's Moi University. Agnes currently serves as a journalist for ACI Africa.