Ethiopian Orthodox Church reaches deal with three rogue bishops

A deal was sealed in the presence of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed to reinstate the three rogue clerics and allocate funding and resources to churches across the Oromia region.

Ethiopian Orthodox priests
Ethiopian Orthodox priests form a procession during an anniversary celebration at the St Michael Church in Mekelle, the capital of the Tigray region of Ethiopia, on June 19, 2021 [Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP]

The influential Ethiopian Orthodox Church said late on Wednesday that it had reached an agreement with a breakaway synod from the Oromia region following deadly violence that killed dozens and led to partial internet shutdowns.

The rift threatened to bring fresh instability to Africa’s second most populous nation, just as its starts to turn the page on a two-year war in the northern Tigray region that killed tens of thousands before a truce was agreed in November.

The row started on February 4, when three clerics from Oromia accused the leadership of the main church of discriminating against Oromos, the country’s largest ethnic group.

They declared themselves archbishops and set up their own governing body, leading to protests by supporters and opponents in which the church said at least 30 people were killed.

As part of Wednesday’s deal, which was sealed in the presence of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, the Orthodox Church reinstated the three clerics and agreed to allocate funding and resources to churches across Oromia.

It also acknowledged the need to train more Afaan Oromo-speaking priests and agreed to ordain more ethnic Oromos among high-ranking clergy, it said in a statement.

Oromia has experienced violent unrest for many years, driven by its perceived marginalisation by national authorities.

The dissenting church officials complained that the church had been culturally dominated by other ethnic groups for too long.

The working language of the main church, for example, is Amharic and its influential leader, the patriarch, is ethnic Tigrayan.

Source: Reuters