2007-05-02 11:18:26 UTC
In a report released today by Voice of the Martyrs, the persecution
watchdog group documented recent cases of severe physical abuse,
confiscation and destruction of property, extortion, kidnapping,
forcible marriage and the unlawful imprisonment of evangelical
Christians in the Southern Region of Ethiopia.
In the most recent incident, a Christian student was repeatedly
stabbed by assailants as he returned home from school on February 1,
2005, VOM reported. "His family has appealed to authorities but if
past experience is any indication, a proper investigation is
unlikely," the watchdog group added.
VOM also learned that, on the same day, in Alaba, Hajji Husman Mohamed
and his family were severely beaten, including his pregnant wife. For
more than an hour, the attackers physically abused everyone in the
house, VOM wrote. Hajji, a former Muslim Imam, has reportedly suffered
several times since his conversion to Christ in March 2003. Last
December, all of his property was taken from him, including his
furniture, cattle, and a year's supply of grain.
VOM has also received reports that, in early January, thirty-two
believers were chased out of the village of Besheno, located
approximately 30 km northeast of Alaba. "The Muslims who organised the
attack are now checking every vehicle entering the community to ensure
that no Christians return," VOM stated.
Sources say the Ethiopian Constitution has allowed a certain degree of
flexibility in administering justice given the remote nature of much
of Ethiopia. It provides, for example, legal standing to some pre-
existing religious and customary courts and gives federal and regional
legislatures the authority to recognise other courts. By law, all
parties to a dispute must agree before a customary or religious court
may hear a case. Shari'ah courts may hear religious and family cases
involving Muslims. In addition, other traditional systems of justice,
such as councils of elders, continue to function in the country.
Although not sanctioned by law, these traditional courts typically
resolve disputes for the majority of citizens who lived in rural areas
and who generally have little access to formal judicial systems.
"Unfortunately, this also opens up the system to abuse, such as is
being seen in the region near Alaba," VOM reported.
According to VOM, the Alaba self-governing administration is the first
regional office in Ethiopia to have requested the government to
implement Shari'ah law. Ninety-nine percent of the population in Alaba
is Muslim, with less than one percent being Ethiopian Orthodox. The
tiny fraction remaining is Evangelical. Islam is the identity of the
Alaba tribe. As one church leader put it to VOM sources, in this town,
"Islam means Alaba and Alaba means Islam."