Ethiopia: in Tigray, an Orthodox Easter between celebration, sadness and mourning

English translation of a broadcast article on Radio France International: https://www.rfi.fr/fr/afrique/20210510-%C3%A9thiopie-au-tigr%C3%A9-une-p%C3%A2ques-orthodoxe-entre-f%C3%AAte-tristesse-et-deuil

Published: 10/05/2021 – 03:16

Autour de l’église Lideta Mariam, des dizaines de croyants écoutent les sermons, drapés de leur «gabi», la couverture traditionnelle en coton blanc.
Around the Church of Lideta Mariam, dozens of believers listen to sermons, draped in their “gabi”, the traditional white cotton blanket. © Sébastien Németh / RFI

This Sunday in Ethiopia, Dagmay Tensae was celebrated, a kind of second Easter for the country’s Orthodox. In Tigray, in the north, as the war continues since November, believers have tried to respect tradition, but it is difficult to celebrate in such a context.

With our special envoy to Mekele, Sébastien Németh

Around the Church of Lideta Mariam, dozens of believers listen to sermons, draped in their gabi, the traditional white cotton blanket. Memher Muse is one of the directors. For him, the celebrations have a bitter taste. “We think of all the people killed. Murdered priests. The burnt Bibles, the destroyed churches. We are divided between the sadness of this tragedy and today’s celebration which comforts us a little. »

For the first time, the church unfurled only the flags of Tigray. The flag of neighbouring Amhara region, whose forces have conquered part of the region, has been withdrawn. A deacon from Waldeba took refuge in the congregation.

“Amhara priests from my church denounced me, “ says Debremeskel Tikaimanot. I spent 23 days in jail. Then three Amhara friends beat me up and I had to flee. There have already been reconciliations, but now forgiveness seems impossible.»

The deacon is not the only one to have taken refuge in Lideta Mariam. Orian Abragebremeten is a trustee of St Giorgis Church in Zalembessa, near the border with Eritrea. He tells of the destruction of his church.

Eritrea bombed and then its soldiers looted the church, killed and took away our animals. It’s like a curse is falling on us. But I want to tell my community that one day peace will return and that soon we will meet again.»

As soon as he can, the cleric promises to return to Zalembessa, rebuild his church and start over.

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