Statement of the employees of Mekelle Diocese and of the administrators of 45 monasteries and churches
We, the employees of the Tigray region Mekelle Diocese, of the two churches under the diocese and of the administrators of 45 monasteries and churches, had a meeting on February 17, 2021. The reason for the meeting was to deliberate on the crimes and devastation on our people and our churches that the war on Tigray which started on November 4 has caused and to issue a statement.
Tigray is the cradle of ancient civilization and religion and it is known for being the home of the Ark of the Covenant. Its people have been shaped by the fear and rule of God for generations starting from the Old Testament times. In addition to the introduction of Chsitianity to Tigray by the Eunuch of the Queen also known as the Ethiopian Eunuch, at the time of “Abraha we Atsbeha” in the 4th century, Tigray accepted the New Testament via the teachings of Abune Salama Kessatie Birhan who became the foundation of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. History remembers that during this era, our ancestors expanded the teachings of the Orthodox faith to the remaining parts of Ethiopia.
Despite the above foundational role of Tigray and Tigrayans in the Ethiopian orthodox faith, since the start of the war, many massacres have been committed by the invading forces of Eritrea, Ethiopia and Amhara militias in cities and villages of Tigray including a massacre of hundreds of civilians in St Mary of Tsion of Axum where the Arc of the Covenant is housed.
Historic and religious books and archives that belong to different monasteries and churches which are symbols of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and sources of tourism have been looted and destroyed. The looting and destruction is still ongoing.
In addition to that, a lot of clergymen, deacons, congregation members of Sunday schools, religious students, and children, especially those clergymen who were on religious service were massacred like animals.
Almost all monasteries and religious schools in Tigray including the historic Debre Damo monastery and St. George of Mekelle have been bombed by UAE drones and heavy weapons. For that reason, a lot of monasteries, churches and religious schools are now closed.
Sexual violence against underage children, married women, nuns, wives of priests and deacons, even elderly mothers has been rampant. Our people living in cities and villages have been robbed of their grain and properties, their homes including animal food has been set on fire.
The violence against our citizens has been committed on animals too.
The war has displaced the majority of our people who have been struggling day and night to get out of poverty. People with chronic illness have died due to lack of medicine, pregnant women have given birth in the wilderness, and have been exposed to hardship and death.
In general, the Tigrayan people have been deprived of medical care, telephone, electricity, transport, internet, banking, and all basic services leading to famine, disease, death, and persecution. Our people are in grave danger.
As a result, we have issued a 10-point statement expressing our grief over the massacres, looting, destruction, and burning of almost all health facilities, educational institutions, factories, and churches.
1. We call on the invading Eritrean army and the invading forces of Amhara to stop the atrocities they are inflicting on our people; to stop looting public property, artifacts, and treasures; and to leave Tigray immediately.
2. We call for an independent investigation of the atrocities committed and for the perpetrators to be brought to justice.
3. We call for the immediate return of artifacts, treasures, and properties looted by the invading Eritrean army and the Amhara forces.
4. We call on the international community to provide humanitarian assistance to the priests, deacons, and monks in the monasteries and churches who are deprived of food and water due to the war.
5. Most of the tangible and intangible heritages registered with UNESCO are from the Tigray Orthodox Tewahedo Church. And they are at risk of being looted and destroyed. We call for a protection of our heritage and for the return of the looted.
6. Due to the destruction of hospitals, pharmacies and health centers, the people of Tigray are in dire need of medical help. We call on the international community to provide access to medicine and medical care.
7. If the ongoing war in Tigray is not stopped now, the killings, the horrific rape of women and the people’s suffering in general will increase. On behalf of our people, we call on the international community to understand this problem and bring an end to it.
8. In 2019, hundreds of thousands of young people and children in Tigray stayed out of school because of COVID-19. Those children are not able to return to school due to lack of peace. The students and their parents are traumatized. We call on the international community to contribute to the peace process in Tigray so that students can return to school.
9. Tigrayans, Church Scholars, Tigray Diaspora, and Tigray friends worldwide, your efforts to stop the ongoing war and looting of properties and heritage are commendable and admirable. On behalf of the Church, we call on you to continue to fight until the war ends.
10. Finally, we call for an end to the war waged against Tigray and the people of Tigray. In the name of God, we call on all parties involved to resolve this issue peacefully through dialogue. We have decided for this statement to be released through different outlets.
The above text is an almost verbatim translation of their statement in Tigrinya: መግለፂ ቅዋም ሰራሕተኛታት ሃገረ ስብከት መቐለን ኣመሓደርቲ 45 ገዳማትን ኣድባራትን. Translation was done mainly by Cherkos Haylay.