Author Topic: Ethiopian Police 'Tortured Christians'  (Read 2401 times)

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Offline Aklie Semaet

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Ethiopian Police 'Tortured Christians'
« on: March 12, 2003, 04:34:15 PM »

Ethiopian Police 'Tortured Christians' from BBC on Friday, January 17, 2003

By Damian Zane BBC correspondent in Addis Ababa

Ethiopia's federal police have been accused of illegally detaining hundreds of people following a religious demonstration three weeks ago.

The accusation is contained within a human rights report just released.

The report also alleges that the detainees were subject to torture during their five-day detention.

The Ethiopian Human Rights Council says that following a confrontation between the police and demonstrators outside Addis Ababa's Lideta Mariam Orthodox church, 700 people were taken to a police training camp 30km outside the city.

The report says that the detainees were neither charged nor allowed contact with a lawyer or a family member.

According to the Ethiopian constitution anyone arrested must be appear in court within 48 hours but most of the 700 prisoners were detained way beyond this deadline.

The federal police have so far not responded to the allegations, though I have been trying to contact them over the past two days.

The report also alleges that some of those arrested were tortured.

The police told people to take their shoes off and made them run up and down on a stony road.

Some were also told to walk on the road on their knees.

Fully clothed, they were then doused in cold water.

One of the human rights council's investigators showed me pictures of some of the detainees with their knees badly bruised from their ordeal.

At the time of the arrests the police said some of their officers were attacked during the demonstration.

Seven of them were injured, one of them so badly that he was in hospital.

The demonstration three weeks ago was about the Lideta Mariam community resisting the imposition of a church administrator appointed by the office of the Patriarch the head of the orthodox church in Ethiopia.

The dispute between Lideta Mariam and the Patriarch's office has been going on for more than two years and the secular court has decided that Lideta Mariam must accept the appointees.

Copyright 2003 BBC
Ethiopia ijochwan wede Egzabiher tezregalech

Offline SamB

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Re:Ethiopian Police 'Tortured Christians'
« Reply #1 on: March 13, 2003, 12:07:01 AM »
Dear Aklie,

Could you add your own comments to this?  What can you say of the history of this dispute?


Offline Aklie Semaet

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Re:Ethiopian Police 'Tortured Christians'
« Reply #2 on: March 13, 2003, 02:39:31 AM »

This is the unfortunate end result of the past history of the military atheist state interfering in the affairs of the Church.

I actually participated in one of these ‘protests’ at Lideta  Mariam Church when I was in Ethiopia at this time last year. That was when the decision was still being made in the secular courts as was referred to in the article. What this ‘protest’ consisted of was everyone fasting and congregating at the church for a full day of spiritual songs (mezmur) and prayer. There was no incident.

A few  background facts to be aware of:

1)   September 1974 the Ethiopian Revolution becomes a military coup by junior officers led by Colonel Mengistu Halie-Maryam. Church and State relations end and atheism is proclaimed.
2)   February 17, 1976 the Ethiopian Patriarch His Holiness Abuna Theophilos is removed by the state from his office and placed in jail.
3)   July 18, 1976 the government orders a non-canonical ‘general assembly’ to name a monk as Patriarch of the Church, this was Abuna Tekle-Hymanot. World Orthodoxy, particularly the Coptic Church, refuse to recognize this obvious injustice.
4)   On July 14, 1979 the government executes the former Patriarch who was still in jail (he is now a martyr of the Church).
5)   1988 Abuna Tekle-Hymanot dies and is succeeded by Abuna Merkorios.
6)   1991 the northern based guerrilla insurgency, the TPLF, successfully overthrows the military dictatorship.
7)   In September 1991, under pressure, Abuna Merkorios resigned his duties as Patriarch. On July 5, 1992, the Holy Synod elected Abune Paulos (an exiled bishop who was living in Los Angeles and who served seven years in prison under the military regime) as Patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church.

It should be remembered that during the duration of the rule by the military clique the Church de-centralized itself just as a precaution in the event that the military moved against it. It was thought that by not having power centralized anywhere the state would not be able to ‘kill’ the church in the event that they tried.

This was successful but the people are now used to having their multiplicity of small traditions and local autonomy that when the new Patriarch is organizing things the way they should be there is a natural resistance. Not to mention that the Patriarch is seen by many as the puppet of the ruling government (which of course he is not even though there are things to be desired).

The Patriarch, for whatever unclear reason, decided to remove the clerical administration at Miriam Lideta. They were not corrupt; in fact it was the opposite they had actually cleaned up and removed corruption and restored accountability. The cleric was very popular with the parishioners and they bitterly opposed him being arbitrarily removed. He actually refused to budge which is why it went to the secular courts; the courts decided in favor of the Patriarch.

I supported the sitting clerics because that is what their parishioners wanted and that is why I participated in the early demonstrations. Where I part company from them is when they go beyond criticizing specific doings of the Patriarch and politicize the issues and oppose the Patriarch all together. Lideta Maryam even announced late last year (before the protests) that they were no longer part of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. They were willing to break communion in order to keep their priest. While I do not endorse the actions of the state, internal dissent has an acceptable limitation, what they did was outright rebellion and is unacceptable.
Ethiopia ijochwan wede Egzabiher tezregalech

Offline Elisha

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Re:Ethiopian Police 'Tortured Christians'
« Reply #3 on: March 13, 2003, 12:40:22 PM »
I know this is a tangent, but what do you guys think should happen in cases like this, where a religious subordinate refuses the commands of the Patriarch/Bishop/etc.?  Isn't this similar to what happened on Athos with that Monastery (I don't remember which, but the story is on another thread here) and another one in Israel/Palestine (or somewhere else in the Mid-east, my memory is foggy) with some type of ROCOR/MP dispute?  All seems to be an obedience issue to me.  What's wrong with having civil authorities forcibly remove the offender(s) - that's what they're there for?  We pray for them.  Please share your thoughts.