Statement to the Independent Catholic News
This statement is in response to an article published by the Independent Catholic News on 23 January 2021, Ethiopia: Massacre at historic church
Reports of a “massacre” at the St Mary Tsion Church in Askum, which houses the Ark of the Covenant, are unfounded and based on unverified reports from the Belgium-based NGO, European External Programme with Africa (EEPA) and rumours from malicious “international experts”.
These very serious claims are the results of a sophisticated disinformation campaign orchestrated by disgruntled political groups bent on stoking instability and using religion as a weapon to sow confusion amongst the international community, in an effort to derail the on-going reforms taking place in my country. To publish such claims without verification or evidence to corroborate them is both irresponsible and dangerous.
Ethiopia, a deeply religious society and a country of ancient civilisations with a culture of religious tolerance at their core, is synonymous with a strong tradition of hospitality and respect between its diverse peoples. In fact, the Constitution guarantees freedom of worship. Therefore, places of worship such as churches and mosques are protected by law and are considered part of Ethiopia’s rich millennia-old cultural heritage. The thought of such atrocities happening in one of Ethiopia’s most ancient and sacred sites is unthinkable. To date, there has been no physical evidence of a “massacre” in Aksum.
Given the current situation, Ethiopia is at a critical crossroads in its efforts to build a more democratic and prosperous society, so I strongly encourage you to report impartially and robustly, given that misinformation and disinformation campaigns on the situation are rampant online. We also urge the international community, the media, and the public not to fall victim to these campaigns, by remaining vigilant, interrogating sources, and exercising caution before publishing and sharing unverified reports.
The Government of Ethiopia is fully aware of the significance of the country’s ancient religious sites and remains fully committed to their protection, as well as the protection of civilians in the Region.
Teferi Melesse Desta
Embassy of Ethiopia, London
The Ambassador’s statement was sent to Independent Catholic News on 26 January 2021. An update to the original article was noted and the Ambassador’s statement published in full on 30 January 2021 – Ethiopia: Ambassador refutes reports of massacre at church
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