Ethiopia (MNN) — Rumors may be responsible for deadly violence in Ethiopia. The country known for food shortages and famine is now at a boiling point for Muslim/Christian violence.
According to Todd Nettleton with Voice of the Martyrs, "Allegedly a Quran was defaced. Allegedly it was inside of a church building. That resulted in Muslims coming against, first, that church, but then it spread into nine other villages. A total of 59 churches were affected and 28 [homes of Christians].
The death toll varies from one to three Christians.
The attacks took place near the city of Jimma in western Oromia region. Nettleton says, "Not only is this area heavily Muslim, but it is known for particularly radical Islam within this area. It is a Muslim hotbed, but the other thing we hear from our contacts is that there are many converts to Christianity coming out of Islam in this area."
Nettleton says it appears there is a bit of a revival going on in the region.
Many witnesses were frustrated by the attacks. Nettleton says, "The local police refused to get involved in the situation. And in some cases stood by and watched, while churches were burned. The national government has sent in police forces that have kind of put a lid on the situation, at least for the short term."
Reports out of the region are scarce. "They are keeping outsiders out of this area for the time being," says Nettleton. "They don't want people coming into the area that aren't from there. They particularly don't want people with cameras and people who would report on what's going on there."
VOM contacts are trying to get into the region to find out what needs exist.
According to BosNews, government officials said, so far, 130 suspects had been detained and charged with instigating religious hatred and violence. Some suggest the attacks were organized by members of Kwarej, a radical Islamic group that fights to establish an Islamic state in Ethiopia.
The Muslim attackers allegedly came from different parts of Ethiopia, including the Somali region.
Nettleton says we can do three things to help Christians in the region. "Pray for their protection. Pray that they will continue to be involved in outreach and continue to be witnesses for Christ. Particularly with the area closed to outsiders, there's not much more that we can do other than pray."
While this is just one area where Christians are facing persecution, VOM has a resource to help you understand it globally. VOM's monthly newsletter helps you understand the pressure facing Christians around the world. You can sign up for it. Click here. It's free.