Ethiopia

World Watch ranking: 32
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Leader
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed

How many Christians?
74.7 million (60.3%)

Main threats
  • Christian denominational protectionism
  • Islamic oppression

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How many Christians are there in Ethiopia?

There are 74.7 million Christians, from a population of 123.8 million people.

How are Christians persecuted in Ethiopia?

The level of freedom Christians have in Ethiopia depends on where you live and what kind of Christian you are. The country is one of the world's oldest majority-Christian countries, but most of these believers belong to the Ethiopian Orthodox Church (EOC), which can itself persecute Christians who leave the EOC for evangelicalism or other Protestant denominations. Families and communities who are part of the EOC may also pressure (or mistreat) a Christian who has chosen a non-traditional Christian expression.

The most overt forms of persecution, though, happen in areas dominated by Islam. In these regions, converts to Christianity can face social ostracism and church attacks by Islamic militants. Families and communities may pressure converts and use violence against them to recant and return to Islam.

In some rural areas of Ethiopia, particularly those that are majority Muslim, Christian women and girls can be abducted and forced into marriage. It's a significant risk for teenage girls and anyone who has converted from Islam. Young women who convert from Islam can be shut up in their family's house and then married off to an older Muslim man, also in a misguided attempt to protect the ‘honour’ of the family unit. If the women are already married, they may be forced to divorce and have their children taken away. 

Meet 'Worke'

“We were thrown out of our home. My in-laws called me worthless, an infidel.” worke, a christian in ethiopia who was raised a muslim

What’s life like for Christians in Ethiopia?

Worke (name changed) was raised in a Muslim family, but she used to sneak out to attend church and hear about Jesus. When she reached ‘marrying age’, she was married to a Muslim man and moved outside of Ethiopia – but she didn’t forget Jesus’ calling to follow Him.

“The words of God I heard kept drawing me, even after I got married. After my husband passed away, I decided to embrace Christ. I talked to my neighbours about it, and I started going to church with them. But then my husband's family found out that I had been attending church and had become a Christian.”

After overhearing about her conversion, Worke’s in-laws were incensed. “We were thrown out of our home,” she says. “I took my children and left. They called me worthless, an infidel. They told me that nobody loved me and that there was nowhere for me to go.”

Worke started selling items on the street, to provide for herself and her children and grandchildren. But local Muslims hated her and set a horrendous trap for her.

“They came to my place and sprayed fuel all over the house. I did not realise that… I got home and I started to prepare some dinner for my grandchild. When I lit a match to start the stove, my hands caught fire.

“I tried to remove my scarf, but then my hair started burning. I don’t know what happened after that.”

When Worke woke up, she was in hospital – she’d been in intensive care for three months, with third degree burns. Amazingly, her faith remains resilient. She knows and trusts Jesus. “The incident has affected me very much. But when I worry too much, I read my Bible. When I read the story of Job, it helps me to cope with my suffering. I trust that God will see me through. It is He who encourages and strengthens me. He keeps me going despite all my challenges. I am grateful to God because He has helped me. I will live by His commands and promises.”

*Name changed for security reasons

Is it getting harder to be a Christian in Ethiopia?

Ethiopia has risen seven places on the World Watch List, largely due to an increase in violence in the past year. There were 15 Christians killed and 284 attacks on churches and other public Christian properties.

How can I help Christians in Ethiopia?

Please keep praying for your brothers and sisters in Ethiopia. Your prayers make an enormous difference to those following Jesus no matter the cost.

Open Doors works through the local church to strengthen Christians in Ethiopia with leadership, persecution survival training and economic empowerment projects.

please pray

Heavenly Father, we pray for our brothers and sisters in Ethiopia. We pray that You would protect and sustain Your people there – particularly those who are at risk because they've chosen to follow You. We pray for those Christians who have been rejected or abused by their families; help them to know that, in the Holy Spirit, they belong to a much bigger family. Amen.

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