ADDIS ABEBA – Heads of the seven religions in Ethiopia have called on the government to act after deadly violence targets several worship places.
Violence erupted in Addis Ababa and in much of Ethiopia’s Oromia region on Wednesday after a high-profile activist accused security forces of trying to orchestrate an attack against him – claim police officials denied.
Ethiopian Orthodox Church alone said at least 60 of its followers were killed in days of unrest in the country’s Oromia region last week.
The exact overall death toll from the trouble has been hard to establish.
Oromia police chief said 67 people were killed while the government admits homes, businesses and places of worship had been destroyed, and that an untold number of Ethiopians had been displaced.
While briefing reporters, heads of major religions criticized the government over the lack of action over the people that target religious institutions during the violence.
“This kind of evil acts should be condemned by everyone,” said Abune Mathias, patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church.
He said the government should carry out its responsibility and guard the safety of the people.
Tuesday’s press briefing was organized by the Inter-Religious Council of Ethiopia (IRCE), which has been established by various religious institutions in 2010.
The council has advised followers every religion to “pray for peace”, and keep themselves away from posting faulty information via social media.
The religious leaders also called for the police and the federal government to stand with the people.
“If we can’t carry out our responsibility correctly, no one can protect the country and its people,” said Hajji Omar Idris Mufti, President of Ethiopian Islamic Affaire Supreme Council.
Hajji Omar called what happened last week as an “evil act”.
“I have never seen such evil actions in my life,” he said, urging all to deplore such actions and those who are involved in it.
Leaders of all religions have forwarded similar messages to their followers saying ‘refrain from violence’.
They also called for the government to make those who have been involved in the recent violence face justice.
On Saturday, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed vowed to bring to justice those responsible for the violence that left at least 67 people dead last week.
“We will unswervingly work to ensure the prevalence of the rule of law and to bring perpetrators to justice,” Abiy said in a statement issued by his office and his first remarks since the violence broke out.
“There has been an attempt to turn the crisis into a religious and ethnic one. In the process our comrades have become victims in terrible circumstances,” he said.
Police claimed that calm had been restored but the defense ministry announced on Friday that it was deploying forces to seven areas to restore order, and reports of violence persisted through Friday night and into Saturday.