An Open Letter Written in Support of the Orthodox Christian Church, People, and Clergy of Ethiopia

May 6, 2024
Christ is Risen! Truly He is Risen!

“Remove not the ancient landmarks which thy fathers have set.” (Proverbs 22:28)

“Thus saith the Lord, ‘Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls.’”. (Jeremiah 6:16)

At the most recent meeting of the Standing Conference of Oriental Orthodox Churches (SCOOCh) – held on April 22, 2024 – our fellow SCOOCh member, His Eminence Archbishop Petros of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, informed us of his recent expulsion from his homeland of Ethiopia and of his inability to freely reenter the country. His Eminence further informed us that his exile was a consequence of his daring to speak out against a regime and a cultural climate that has become openly hostile to Ethiopia’s ancient Orthodox Christian Church. His Eminence also made us aware of the many atrocities that have recently been carried out against the Orthodox Christian Church and faithful people of Ethiopia, including attacks upon monasteries and churches and even the murder and beheading of monks and of the clergy.

The Church of Ethiopia has long occupied a singular and special place in the Orthodox Christian world. In addition to her own unique Orthodox Christian patrimony, she has also served as a repository for the accumulated heritage of the Oriental Orthodox oikumene, preserving liturgical rites, anaphorae, and theological treatises that have in some cases been lost to the nations that originally produced them because of external persecution. Now, Ethiopia’s own unique Orthodox Christian heritage appears to be under threat of an unfortunate persecution from within. Churches are being burned, pillaged, and looted, and the clergy and even the faithful among the laity are being murdered. Entire regions and ethnicities are reported to be facing the threat of extermination and genocide, the heart of Ethiopia’s Christian heritage is under attack, and the leading clergy are not only silenced and prevented from speaking out on behalf of the people, but also hindered from helping them in their time of need.

In the not-so-recent past, Orthodox Christianity was the official state religion of Ethiopia and by far the majority religion of the nation. Now, recent figures seem to indicate that the country is less than 44% Orthodox Christian and that the Church continues to face attacks and persecution from all quarters. Modern Ethiopia claims to embrace religious pluralism, but must it do so at the expense of the Orthodox Christian faith and culture that is the soul of the country and was at one time all but synonymous with being an Ethiopian? The Standing Conference of Oriental Orthodox Churches calls for the persecution and hostility against the ancient Orthodox Christian Church of Ethiopia to cease at once, for the looting of sacred sites and monasteries to halt, and for the brutalization of the clergy and the faithful to come to an immediate end. The leading clergy – including the venerable Patriarch of Ethiopia, His Holiness Abune Mathias I, and the Secretary of the Holy Synod, His Eminence Archbishop Petros, must be entirely free to speak on behalf of the flock of Christ they oversee without fear of any repercussions whatsoever from any quarter. Furthermore, no secular institution should exert any influence over the internal workings and affairs of the Orthodox Christian Church. The Orthodox Church must be governed solely by an Orthodox Christian Holy Synod and not be any external individuals or institutions.

May Our Merciful Lord be with the God-fearing Orthodox Christian Church and People of Ethiopia, with their Honorable Patriarch His Holiness Abune Mathias I, and with His Eminence Archbishop Petros, the Secretary of the Holy Synod and the Bishop of New York. May He strengthen them for all that they presently endure, and bring their present persecution speedily to an end.

On Behalf of the Bishops of the Standing Conference of Oriental Orthodox Churches,