‘I’m a Witness to Unspeakable Suffering’: Ethiopia Bishop Wants Peace Pact Implemented

Violent conflict in the Tigray region started in November 2020 when TPLF allegedly launched an attack on Ethiopia’s Federal Government Army base in the region.

Bishop Tesfasellassie Medhin of the Catholic Eparchy of Adigrat in Ethiopia, which covers the Tigray region.
Bishop Tesfasellassie Medhin of the Catholic Eparchy of Adigrat in Ethiopia, which covers the Tigray region. (photo: Credit: CBCE / CBCE)

The bishop of Ethiopia’s Catholic Eparchy of Adigrat, which covers the Tigray region, said he has witnessed firsthand the “unspeakable suffering” and death of the people of God in the embattled region of the Horn of Africa nation.

In a statement that ACI Africa, CNA’s news partner in Africa, obtained April 19, Bishop Tesfasellassie Medhin pleaded for the implementation of the Nov. 2, 2022, peace agreement in Pretoria, South Africa, in which the Ethiopian government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) pledged to “permanently silence the guns and end the two years of conflict in northern Ethiopia.”

“I am writing as a religious leader with deep concern and feeling for the pain of tens of millions of our population in the country, especially the children, elders, and women of Tigray,” Bishop Medhin said. 

He painted a grim picture of the situation of the people of God in Tigray, saying: “I am a witness to unspeakable suffering, despair, disease, and death around me due to years of conflict, drought, and localized rain failure as well lack of attention to meet basic needs.”

Violent conflict in the Tigray region started in November 2020 when TPLF allegedly launched an attack on Ethiopia’s Federal Government Army base in the region.

TPLF and people in the Tigray region were reportedly opposed to Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s bid to centralize power in Africa’s second most populous country.

In his statement, Medhin said that millions of people as well as hundreds of thousands of refugees have been displaced following the conflicts not only in the region of Tigray but also in neighboring Afar, Amhara, and Oromia regions.

He said the concerted efforts of his episcopal see in partnership with other entities in reaching out to the needy are insufficient.

“We see the human face of the statistics all receive via reports: rising malnutrition, less than half of needs met last year, and even less commitment to meet needs in Tigray this year,” Medhin said.

He highlighted the apostolate of the pastoral agents of Adigrat Eparchy, saying: “We embrace children so undernourished that they appear skin and bones, listen to families who are struggling to provide even a portion of a single meal each day, and every month mourn hundreds of beloved community members dying of diseases they might not have succumbed to were they not suffering from severe hunger.”

“Our problem is holistic — social, political, economic, psychological, and spiritual — for the whole Tigray and also for the neighboring populations who are in a similar situation,” he said.

He pointed to the Catholic Church's teaching on human dignity as important and emphasized the need to protect the vulnerable. “Every human being is a beloved child of God, deserving of equal dignity and care,” he said.

He decried the negative effects of environmental degradation, saying: “In the coming months, we face very serious climatic change impacts to be hitting us this year — foreboding unpredictable rains, drought, and flooding.”

While Bishop Medhin acknowledged with appreciation the efforts being undertaken to alleviate the suffering of the Tigray people, he cautioned: “We need not wait for a truly catastrophic situation to occur before sounding the alarm — we are sounding the alarm now.”

“The population of Tigray and neighboring regions have suffered years of war, drought, and disease — and have demonstrated a resilience few can believe — and we pray that we make it through this crisis,” he said.

Bishop Medhin also appealed for the implementation of peace.

“I make this plea to the respective national and international governments and community for relieving the suffering and reduce the dying from such dire situations — and for speeding up the implementation of the Pretoria Peace Agreement.”

This story was first published by ACI Africa, CNA’s news partner in Africa, and has been adapted by CNA.

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