Ethiopian bishops creating space for encounter and dialogue

2016-10-17 Vatican Radio

(Vatican Radio) Following months of anti-government protests and violence from the Amhara and Oromo regions, Ethiopia has declared a state of emergency, which includes a ban of online communications. 

Diplomats are also restricted from traveling more than 40 km outside of the nation’s capital, Addis Ababa, without prior notice or approval. The state of emergency will last six months. 

Over the past year more than 500 people have died in anti-government protests, but the level of violence escalated when 55 people were killed this month at a religious festival in Bishoftu. 

About 60% of Ethiopia’s population has been involved in protest and civil unrest for the past year. The Ahmara and Omoro are the two largest ethnic groups in the nation and are also the majority of the protestors. International entities such as the United Nations and European Union have called for government intervention. The Bishops of the Catholic Church of Ethiopia are calling for action. 

The General Secretary of the Ethiopian Bishops’ Conference, Father Hagos Hayish, spoke to Vatican Radio’s Linda Bordoni about the recent protests and the need to create open dialogue between citizens and the government.

Listen:

Father Hagos says the Bishops’ Conference of the Catholic Church in Ethiopia has met with other religious leaders in the country to review the situation. The main goals of the encounters are to create an open dialogue and to encourage peace. He says they aim to create a link between statesmen, the youth and the 'elders' to encourage them to speak openly and address the issues instead of engaging in violence.

Fr Hagos explains that “the religious leaders in Ethiopia, together, made a request to the nation’s statesmen twice, on public media, asking the public and the government to solve this situation.” 

He also says the Catholic Church has led a 30-day prayer, starting on the Ethiopian New Year on September 11. And is organizing a ‘prayer for peace’ initiative which will last an extra seven days.

Father Hagos explains that the Bishops’ Conference is involved in an interfaith council of Ethiopia, which counts seven religious leaders belonging to Christian and Muslim faiths. 

He highlights that members of the council are “continuously discussing this and we are hoping that people will be able to listen to one another. Maybe after listening, we can come to the main agenda of all of these issues we are trying to understand.” 

So, he says, the round table he is helping to set up will provide a platform for all the stakeholders to be able to voice their concerns and find a peaceful way to work towards a solution of dialogue and exchange.

“Our call is very inclusive, but we can’t anticipate what kind of response we will get. We are very optimistic that it will inspire the minds of Ethiopians” he says.

As regards a possible timeframe for the round table, Fr Hagos says it is too early to make that public information.

(from Vatican Radio)