TIGRAY’S CHRISTIANS, ONCE REFUGEE HELPERS, ARE NOW REFUGEES THEMSELVES
For years, Pastor “T” and his church congregation tended to the needs of Eritrean refugees fleeing from their oppressive homeland seeking shelter in the Tigray region of Northern Ethiopia where Pastor T’s church was located.
Now, Pastor T and his church members have themselves become refugees as the war between the Tigray state, the Ethiopian central government, and Eritrean troops stretches into its second year.
“Pastor T and his church are our longtime partners,” says Voice of the Martyrs Korea Representative Dr. Hyun Sook Foley. “For several years Pastor T and his church members used to take us to visit the Eritrean refugee camps in the Tigray region of Northern Ethiopia and also provide training to the refugees at his church. But the attacks emptied the refugee camps and even sent Pastor T and his church members away from their homes due to lack of basic living necessities.”
Tigray Christians like Pastor T used to visit the refugee camps to aid Eritrean refugees. Now they themselves are displaced, forced to stay temporarily in Addis Ababa, which Pastor T says is “not safe” for those of Tigray descent, due to the ongoing civil war.
But Representative Foley says that Pastor T is continuing his ministry to the displaced, even as he himself is displaced.
“Pastor T, like many of the Ethiopians of Tigray descent, has had to temporarily relocate to Addis Ababa. But by the grace of God, he and his team are still giving aid to others, not simply receiving it for themselves,” says Representative Foley, who notes that they are in weekly communication with the pastor. “He remains upbeat. He wrote us this week, ‘As you know the war is still continuing, but we have hope because God is in control. He is changing things, but please pray because some regions are not willing for peace, so we need God’s interference.’”
Representative Foley says that Pastor T wrote that “Addis is not safe” but that it is a fruitful place for ministry. “Pastor T wrote, ‘Church worship is going well. I am in Addis because there is no means of transportation [back to Tigray]. Our church is doing a feeding program and our gospel ministry. We are becoming a light for the dark.’”
According to Representative Foley, Pastor T and his church are operating three ministries, even as they themselves are dislocated.
Baptism of new believers at one of the ten new churches that has sprung up to serve Tigray refugees in Addis Ababa.
“They are feeding lunch to 600 children a day. These are Tigray children from the Shire region in the north who fled to Addis, the capital city, with their families. The families receive flour whenever Pastor T has it to distribute. In addition, Pastor T and his team are helping church planters. Ten new churches have sprung up in Addis Ababa as Tigray refugees resettle there. Pastor T always sends photos of the baptisms that are taking place. Finally, they are providing whatever aid they can to the Eritrean refugees who were formerly living in the camps but who are now displaced even from the refugee camps.”
Representative Foley notes that safety is always a concern. “Even in the big cities like Addis Ababa where many of the refugees are fleeing, it is impossible for them just to ‘blend in’: Ethnic tensions are soaring due to the conflict in the northeast, so Protestant Christians of Tigray ethnicity like them are viewed with deep suspicion and even hatred by the majority ethnic groups of Muslim and Orthodox background in whose neighborhoods they are forced to hide.”
Representative Foley says that Voice of the Martyrs Korea is collecting a love offering in February to send to Pastor T. Donations made this month to Voice of the Martyrs Korea Eritrea fund will be used to support Pastor T’s emergency aid work as well as to provide ongoing support to Eritrean Christians whose family members remain in prison in Eritrea.
A Tigray refugee passes sacks of flour to be distributed to other Tigray refugees by Pastor T’s church team in Addis Ababa.
Tigray Christian refugees distribute aid to other Tigray refugees in Addis Ababa.
Donations 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 “Ethiopia” on the donation.
For more information on Voice of the Martyrs Korea’s partnership with Eritrean underground Christians, please visit www.vomkorea.com/en/country-profile/eritrea.
Pastor T and his church feed 600 Tigray children daily who are currently living in school buildings due to being forced from their home because of the war.