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Do Everything to Stop “Rwanda-type genocide” in Ethiopia: Church Leaders Urge Pope Francis

Flag of Ethiopia/ Credit: Shutterstock

Members of the Tigray Diaspora Inter-Religious Council (TDIRC) are calling on Pope Francis to take every possible action to stop the ongoing clashes, which they describe as a genocide against the people of Tigray.

In a Wednesday, December 1 statement, TDRIC members say the Ethiopian government and some religious leaders continue to encourage genocidal media rhetoric, which have translated to gruesome murders, torture and arbitrary arrest of Tigrayans.

“We are quite confident that you will prayerfully consider this crucial matter and do everything you can to stop yet another Rwanda-type genocide from being committed before the eyes of the world,” they say in the statement that was read out at a workshop organized by the Department of Promotion of Integral Human Development (PIHD) of the Association of Member Episcopal Conferences in Eastern Africa (AMECEA).

The religious leaders explain that the people in Ethiopia's Northernmost region have been enduring “unimaginable atrocities” in the hands of the Ethiopian army and others, including the Eritrean armed forces, and the Amhara regional forces.

“Civilians in many towns, including Mekelle, the capital city of Tigray, are being indiscriminately killed by air bombardments, and access to basic needs such as medicines, food, water, and communications and banking services remain blocked by the Ethiopian government,” TDRIC members say. 

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They add that despite condemnation from the international bodies and countries including the US, UK and the United Nations, “the Ethiopian government continues to hold Tigray under siege in all directions.”

They cite the June 2021 situational report from the UN that shows “5.2 million people of Tigray that have been identified by the UN since June 2021 as needing immediate humanitarian assistance and 900,000 people of Tigray under famine. Much-needed medical supplies, fuel, and cash have been completely blocked for the past 12 months.”

As a result, the religious leaders say, “Children are dying of famine, people can’t travel from place to place, banks have run out of cash as there is no more supply from their national bank, and the very few health institutions that escaped from being demolished do not have basic medicines.”

They decry the fact that humanitarian agencies have been denied access to Tigray, therefore worsening the humanitarian situation. 

“As if this was not enough, the United Nations Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS) that was used by the very few humanitarian organizations in Tigray have been intimidated by the Ethiopian air force and as a result has suspended the needed flights to and from the capital of Tigray, Mekelle,” TDRIC members say in their December 1 statement. 

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In the statement copied to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), Vatican's Secretary of State, the Apostolic Nuncio in Ethiopia, the Ethiopian Catholic Bishops' Conference and the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union (COMECE), TDIRC members say patients with chronic diseases in Tigray are succumbing to the effects of the siege. 

“In the meantime, the war continues devouring further lives and degrading livelihoods both in Tigray and elsewhere in Ethiopia. The Ethiopian government has refused any form of negotiated settlement. Instead, the Ethiopian government and its allies are mobilizing the rest of Ethiopia to stand up against the people of Tigray,” the faith-based actors in Ethiopia say.  

In their December 1 statement signed by TDIRC Board Chairman, Rev. Tekeste Araya, the religious leaders urge Pope Francis to reiterate his previous appeals for peace in the Horn of Africa country and to “continue praying for peace, the persecuted Tigrayans and other Ethiopians.”

They further request the Pope to “demand that the Ethiopian government and its allies stop ethnic profiling, harassment, discrimination and mass detention in all parts of Ethiopia and release all ethnic Tigrayans and other Ethiopians who are illegally detained.”

TDIRC members go on to request the Pope to urge the Ethiopian government to cease the indiscriminate killings particularly in Western Tigray and to stop creating concentration camp-like facilities and preparing defenseless Tigrayan civilians for genocidal attack, abuses and holding them hostages.

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TDRIC members also ask the Pope to intervene by asking the Ethiopian government to stop using humanitarian aid as a weapon of war and allow “unfettered humanitarian access” to the people of Tigray.