February 2, 2021

ETHIOPIA: 750 Christians Were Killed In A Massacre On The Orthodox Maryam Tsiyon Church In Aksum, Tigray Region, Thought To Contain The Ark of the Covenant. Up To 1,000 Massacred Since December.

Aleteia News
written by Staff
Tuesday January 26, 2021

A recent surge in violence in the Tigray region has left 1,000 dead.

Up to 1,000 people—including priests and other church leaders—have been killed in a series of attacks in Ethiopia culminating in a massacre at a church where the Ark of the Covenant is believed to be kept.

Following reports that 750 people were killed in a raid on the Orthodox Maryam Tsiyon Church in Aksum, thought to contain the Ark of the Covenant, an anonymous source from inside the country spoke to Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).

The source told ACN the attack was the latest in a long line of fatal assaults against innocent people, as part of the ongoing conflict in the Tigray region of the country.

He said: “750 were killed in Aksum, 154 people were killed in December in Maryam Dengelat. Also in my home area, 10 people were killed on Christmas Day from one family in one village.”

“More than 32 people were killed by Eritrean troops in Irob, 56 in Zalambassa, 11 in Sebeya. I also heard about 32 people, including priests, who were killed in a church in Gietelo, Gulemakada. In addition to that, in another area, I heard 20 were killed.”

Reports of the Aksum massacre first emerged earlier this month, when the European External Program with Africa (EEPA), a Belgium-based nonprofit organization, released a situational report, saying the people hiding in the church were brought out and shot in the square.

The ACN source said: “I heard there were 1,000 people in the church. It might be that more were injured and died later. 750 were killed for sure.” He added: “In Aksum, there is the Ark of the Covenant. Maybe the people were there protecting the Ark. They were taken outside and shot.”

The ACN source stressed an ongoing political conflict had led to the deaths of so many Christians and Muslims but added that the violence was not motivated by religion. He went on to say: “Inside Ethiopia there is a political conflict to do with the election. The government expired in September and they were supposed to have elections in May. Coronavirus happened and the election was postponed in August. This is a political problem and they are targeting the people of the Tigray region. This is a terrible situation.”

Last November, fighting broke out in Tigray after Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed sent in federal troops, supported by militia and army from Amhara, as well as troops from Eritrea, to fight the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which he accused of holding illegitimate elections.

The source said: “Frankly, the problem is that Eritrean troops have been involved from the beginning. The [Ethiopian] government has denied this but those who are doing the killing are Eritrean troops in eastern and north-western Tigray.”
Eritea Hub, Information about Eritrea and the Horn of Africa
written by Rebecca Paveley, Church Times
Friday January 15, 2021

The Chapel of the Tablet, St Mary of Zion, Aksum, in Tigray

REPORTS of a massacre of 750 people in the cathedral complex that reputedly houses the Ark of the Covenant have emerged from the Tigray region of Ethiopia.

Accounts have come from those who fled the town of Aksum and walked more than 200km to the regional capital, Mekelle.

The massacre was first reported in dispatches from the Belgium-based NGO European External Programme with Africa (EEPA). The area is sealed off to journalists, but many reports of massacres have nevertheless emerged, some of which have been documented by Amnesty International.

The former BBC World Service Africa editor and Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies, Martin Plaut, said that those who escaped the Aksum massacre had reported that the attack began after Ethiopian federal troops and Amhara militia approached the Church of St Mary of Zion.

Up to 1000 people were believed to be sheltering in the church complex. One of the chapels, the Chapel of the Tablet, is believed by Ethiopian Christians to contain the Ark of the Covenant, which is hidden from the view of everyone, apart from a single priest who never leaves the compound.

Mr Plaut said: “People were worried about the safety of the Ark, and when they heard troops were approaching feared they had come to steal it. All those inside the cathedral were forced out into the square.”

EEPA’s latest dispatch on the situation in Tigray, on Tuesday, reports that 750 people were shot in Aksum, although this has not been verified. It says that the massacre was carried out by Ethiopian federal troops and Amhara militia.

The Church is not thought to have been damaged, and Mr Plaut said that the Ark is likely to have been hidden before troops arrived, although it has not been possible to confirm this.

The Ark is believed by Ethiopian Orthodox Christians to have been hidden in Aksum by Menelik I, the son of King Solomon of Israel. The kingdom of Aksum was one of the four great powers of the ancient world, and the town of Aksum is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Fighting broke out in Tigray in November, after the Ethiopian Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed, sent federal troops, supported by militia and troops from Eritrea, to fight the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which he accused of holding illegitimate elections (News, 20 November 2020). The TPLF was part of the governing coalition of Ethiopia until 2019.

The government declared that the conflict was over after it captured Mekelle, in late November, but the TPLF continues to fight a guerrilla war.

The Ethiopian government has admitted shelling an ancient mosque in Tigray, and has promised to repair it. The al-Nejashi mosque in northern Tigray was hit by shells, and its dome, minaret, and ancient tombs, reputedly of 15 disciples of the Prophet Muhammad, were damaged. A church near by was also damaged in the attack, and the government has pledged that it will also repair it.

EEPA reported that, after the shelling, the mosque had been looted by Ethiopian and Eritrean troops, and that some civilians had died trying to protect it.

Humanitarian aid has been unable to get to the region, despite pleas from the United Nations, which estimates that 2.3 million children have been cut off from food and aid (News 1 January). More than one million people have been displaced by the fighting, and more than 50,000 have fled into Sudan. There are also concerns for the safety of many Eritrean refugees in camps in Tigray.

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