Ethiopian Anabaptists in the war-torn province of Tigray are cut off from efforts to assist them as a humanitarian crisis looms.
Although a June cease-fire halted overt fighting, in October the United Nations warned of a humanitarian crisis, with some 400,000 people living in famine-like conditions.
The Meserete Kristos Church Relief and Development Association has carried out relief activities in northern Ethiopia but has not been able to access the Tigray state.
“When the communication network was working, we were informed that a church worker at Wukro MKC died in the conflict,” said Desalegn Abebe, president of MKC, the Anabaptist church in Ethiopia.
Now, he said, there is no direct way to hear about the conditions for believers in Tigray.
MKC leaders who visited Tigray in June reported the war’s impact on more than 20 congregations and church-planting centers, including displacement of members and burning of buildings.
“I was moved to see these faithful believers who joyfully worship and serve Christ [despite persecution],” Abebe said.
The regions affected by the civil war, which broke out in November 2020 between government forces and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, are strategic for spreading the gospel and planting churches in neighboring Sudan.
“MKC has been trying to help MKC members who were seriously affected in parts of Ethiopia that are not currently under the Tigray People’s Liberation Front,” Abebe said.
MKC participates in a peacebuilding initiative that gathers Ethiopian Christians for a unified response to violence.
Abebe said the Anabaptist church does not take sides in politics.
“MKC does not support or oppose any political parties or warring factions,” he said. “The church preaches and teaches peace, encourages church leaders to mobilize members to engage in prayers for peace, supports members in conflict zones by sharing their resources and undertakes peacebuilding activities in conflict zones.”