Ethiopian army soldiers and allied Eritrean troops allegedly “massacred” at least 78 priests of the Christian Ethiopian Orthodox Church in Ethiopia’s separatist Tigray region in recent months, Britain’s Telegraph newspaper reported on Monday.
An official Ethiopian Orthodox Church letter dated April 15 and recently leaked to the newspaper detailed the alleged attack on Tigray priests.
“The letter, which was addressed to the Synod [council] of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, says that ‘priests, deacons, choristers, and monks’ have been ‘massacred’ over the last five months,” the Telegraph wrote on Monday. “Half a dozen survivors confirmed the news to this newspaper and said that both Ethiopian national army soldiers and Eritrean troops went into their holy spaces across southeast Tigray and ‘shot them down.'”
“The stamped letter was sent on April 15 and lists the number of clergymen killed over the past five months in the church administrations,” the newspaper reported. “Gergera Maryam, Adi’Zeban Karagiorgis, Kidanemihret Bosa, Taksa, and the monastery of Da Abune Ayzgi are some of the churches where churchmen were massacred, according to witnesses.”
“[T]he number of dead clergymen could be much higher than 78,” Tigray priests who survived the massacre told the Telegraph.
The Ethiopian federal government launched a military offensive against the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), a Marxist separatist group, in November 2020 after forces tied to the TPLF attacked multiple Ethiopian federal military bases across Tigray on November 4. The incident sparked an ongoing civil war between Addis Ababa and the TPLF, with most of the fighting concentrated in the northern region of Tigray. More than 60,000 Ethiopians have fled the conflict over the past six months, heading to either other parts of Ethiopia or neighboring states, such as Sudan. Eritrean troops allied with the Ethiopian federal government have deployed to Tigray to assist Addis Ababa’s military efforts.
Ethiopian federal forces allegedly attacked a Christian church in the Tigray city of Aksum in January, killing roughly 750 people. Ethiopian army troops, along with allied ethnic Amhara militias, “allegedly forced hundreds of people hiding in Aksum’s Maryam Tsion Church onto the church’s front square and shot them in recent days,” Breitbart News reported on January 19. The exact date of the alleged massacre in Aksum remains unknown, though it was first reported on January 9 by the Belgian-based peacebuilding non-profit Europe External Program with Africa (EEPA). Maryam Tsion is part of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, which has roughly 36 million members, according to Christian Today.