SEBETA, Ethiopia — Two pastors in Ethiopia were recently beheaded at their homes in the midst of Islamic rioting that also killed over 60 others and wounded more than 200.
According to reports, the incident occurred in October as a mob took to the streets of Sebeta to protest the actions of the Ethiopian government under the leadership of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. Muslim leader Jawar Mohammed had lost his security protection previously granted to him by the state and his supporters were not pleased.
Wreaking havoc in the small Muslim-majority town, the rioters threw stones at bystanders and set fire to homes.
The mob also stormed the homes of Assefa Tesfaye, pastor of Mekane Yesus Lutheran Church, and Isaias (last name not provided) of Full Gospel Church, likewise stoning them.
“Pastor Isaias was beheaded by the militants as he lay prostrate on the ground. Pastor Assefa’s stomach was slashed vertically with a knife before he was beheaded,” reports the Barnabas Fund. “The wives and children of each of the pastors fled their homes and escaped unharmed.”
In total, 67 people were killed in the riot and 213 others were injured. International Christian Concern (ICC) reports that the Ethiopian military was called in by the government to try to restore peace and order to the devastated area.
“It is difficult to know whether the two pastors were targeted during the riots or were just unfortunately murdered indiscriminately. However, persecutors often will use the chaos of political instability to enact their hatred,” ICC Regional Manager William Stark told Christian News Network.
“In this particular case, it is possible that the political chaos in Sebeta was used to target and kill pastors Isaias and Assefa Tesfaye. The fact that these two Christians were church leaders in a Muslim-majority town makes it even more likely that they were targeted because of their faith,” he explained.
When asked about the religious and political climate of Ethiopia, Stark said that while the government grants religious liberty, Christians do face persecution from Muslims, and at times, differences between Orthodox and Evangelical result in ill-treatment.
“Persecution in Ethiopia is more concentrated in the Muslim-majority areas of the country,” he outlined. “Much of the persecution is experienced by Muslim converts to Christianity and the church leaders working among the Muslim populations to advance the Gospel message.”
While the incident occurred in October, the identities of the pastors were just made public this month.
“We here at ICC are sad to hear the terrible news that pastor Isaias and Assefa Tesfaye were murdered,” Stark stated. “We would encourage all those who [read] this report to pray not only for the general situation in Ethiopia, but also for the families of Isaias and Assefa.”