Pastor “T” (name withheld for security reasons) conducted a wedding at his church yesterday. While Ethiopian weddings normally require Pastor T to coordinate many details, this one required more coordination than most.
Pastor T’s church is currently located in one of the hottest war zones on earth.
Simmering conflict between the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) and Ethiopian government forces broke out in early November. An estimated two million people in the region, roughly a third of Tigray’s population, are currently displaced. Roads in and out of the region have been barricaded, according to international observers.
“There is currently no Internet and no banks, but we got lights (electricity) this week, praise God,” Pastor T told Voice of the Martyrs Korea. “To our people the problem is deep. Many elderly people and children are hungry and dying. In my church one child died. Because of the war, young women are being raped by the troops. Many buildings are destroyed. Still the war continues around us, now 10 km from my city.”
Pastor T and his church have been long-term partners with Voice of the Martyrs Korea in serving Eritrean underground Christians who fled across the border to the Tigray region as the result of persecution in their homeland, according to Voice of the Martyrs Korea Representative Dr. Hyun Sook Foley. “Eritrea has long been called the ‘North Korea of Africa’ due to its severe persecution of Christians and political dissidents,” says Representative Foley. “For years we have worked with Pastor T to provide trauma counseling and spiritual and physical care to the large Eritrean Christian population that spills continuously across the Eritrean/Ethiopian border into the Tigray region of Northern Ethiopia. But now the Tigray region has been reduced to a state of refugees. Many people have fled, but Pastor T and his church are staying out of concern for the Eritrean Christians who rely on the church as their only source of help now that UN and Ethiopian aid agencies have been blocked from accessing two of the many Eritrean refugee camps in the region.”
Voice of the Martyrs Korea Representative Dr. Hyun Sook Foley does a trauma recovery training with Eritrean refugees in Ethiopia.
Representative Foley says Voice of the Martyrs Korea is following up on multiple reports that Eritrean Christian refugees in Tigray are being rounded up by Eritrean government forces and repatriated amidst the chaos in the region. “The refugees regard the camps as no longer safe, and certainly no longer able to supply basic living necessities,” says Representative Foley. “Pastor T and his church are presently providing care for these Eritrean Christians despite being unable to care for themselves.”
Pastor T wrote Voice of the Martyrs Korea, “You taught us to serve our people by whatever we have: our body, our blood, our food. Even though we don’t have enough food even for ourselves, we are using the opportunity of the hunger to share our love.”
Representative Foley says that Voice of the Martyrs Korea has found a way to transit funds into the region and has pledged to send the equivalent of 10,000,000 KRW to Pastor T this month, for his church and the Eritrean Christian refugees they are supporting. “Other NGOs are meeting the needs of those who are fleeing Tigray to safety, but at Voice of the Martyrs Korea our role is always to aid Christians who choose to stay and share the love of Christ—especially those like Pastor T who remain behind to care for the families of Christians who have been martyred or imprisoned because of their witness for Christ.”
Representative Foley says Voice of the Martyrs Korea is designating donations made this month to its Voice of the Martyrs Korea Families of Martyrs and Prisoners fund to this emergency.
Representative Foley prays with an Eritrean widow, whose husband died in prison due to his faith in Jesus Christ. Refugees like this woman are in danger of being repatriated to Eritrea.
Donation to VOMK’s Families of Martyrs and Prisoners (FOM/FOP) fund can be made at www.vomkorea.com/en/donation or via electronic transfer to:
국민은행 (KB Bank): 463501-01-243303
예금주 (Account Holder): (사)순교자의소리
Please include the name “FOM/FOP” on the donation. Representative Foley says that if donations are received in excess of the amount of the emergency pledge, Voice of the Martyrs Korea will allocate them to its regular monthly financial support of the families of other Eritrean martyrs and prisoners, in Eritrea and the surrounding regions.
For more information on Voice of the Martyrs Korea’s partnership with Eritrean underground Christians, please visit www.vomkorea.com/en/country-profile/eritrea.