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Pope Francis Expresses Solidarity with Victims of Ethiopia’s Growing Humanitarian Crisis

Flag of Ethiopia/ Credit: Shutterstock

Pope Francis has expressed his solidarity with victims of Ethiopia’s ongoing conflict ahead of the country’s New Year Day celebrations.

In his address on Wednesday, September 8, the Holy Father sent out his best wishes to the people of God in the Horn of Africa nation and prayed that the country’s big day becomes “a moment of fraternity and solidarity” for all Ethiopians.

“New Year's Day will be celebrated in Ethiopia this coming 11 September. I extend to the Ethiopian people my most cordial and heart-felt greetings, particularly to those who are suffering due to the ongoing conflict and the serious humanitarian situation it has caused,” Pope Francis said.

He added, “May this be a moment of fraternity and solidarity so that the common desire for peace can be heard.”

Known as “Enkutatash” in Amharic, the official language of Ethiopia, the country’s New Year Day is celebrated on September 11 unless it is a leap year in the Ethiopian calendar, in which case it is celebrated on September 12.

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Celebrations for the Ethiopian New Year usually last for a week and are focused on family events.

The holiday starts on New Year's Eve, when each household lights wooden torches called “chibo” in Amharic language to symbolize the coming of the new season of sunshine after the end of the rainy season.

The New Year celebrations in Ethiopia will be held amid a humanitarian crisis that has been growing since 4 November 2020 when war erupted in the country’s Tigray region. This was after Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed-led government ordered a military offensive against the authorities in the region where Ethiopia borders Eritrea.

The military attack was in response to the alleged attack on Ethiopia’s largest military base located in Tigray’s capital, Mekelle, by forces loyal to the region’s government.

In a past report, Catholic Pontifical and charity organization, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) International said that hundreds lay dead in Ethiopia’s war-torn Tigray region where Priests were beaten up and churches ransacked.

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ACN added that in the region, there was “rampant” hunger and that fear was gripping the inhabitants who had no medicine left.

A priest who spoke to the charity foundation said, “There are no official public services, not enough food, no medication, no security and trust… The situation is worsening by the moment.”

Describing how children and orphans have suffered, the Priest said, “The people are at the end of their strength. Mothers come to ask for help because they have lost their children and don’t know where they are.”

According to the United Nations, more than five million people mostly in the Tigray region are in need of an urgent humanitarian intervention.  

Ethiopia's army offensive into the Tigray region has also raised concerns over excessive force meted against unarmed and innocent people. Thousands of women, some of them Catholic Nuns, have been sexually assaulted and raped.

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Pope Francis has sent out numerous messages in which he expresses concern about the worsening humanitarian crisis in Ethiopia and invites the world to pray for peace in the country.

Addressing the faithful during a Sunday, June 13 Angelus at the Vatican, the Holy Father said, “The suffering, which has been occasioned by a serious humanitarian crisis in Ethiopia could expose poor families to famine.”

To help salvage the situation, the Catholic Bishops in the Horn of Africa nation have facilitated collections, which are to be channeled to the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs).

“We request that all Dioceses and parishes know that a prayer week is officially declared from September 6 to 10, 2021 and especially on September 6 all offices will be closed and all faithful will pray at their respective parishes pleading to God for his fatherly providence,” the Catholic Bishops in Ethiopia said in their August 28 statement.