OVERVIEW: The gospel first came to Ethiopia in the first century A.D. Despite its early origins, many Ethiopian Christians still face persecution. In southern Ethiopia, the rise of Wahhabi Islam among the Oromo Muslims along with recent political unrest have resulted in a wave of attacks against Christians across the region. Many churches and believers’ homes have been destroyed, and several Christians have been martyred for their faith. Eastern Ethiopia has one of the largest Somali populations in the world, and Christians there are persecuted by both their communities and their families. As in the south, recent political upheavals have led to large-scale attacks on Christians in the east. In northern Ethiopia, some traditional Christians persecute evangelical believers. They tear down churches, physically assault them and deny them jobs and burial places. Several majority Muslim tribal groups throughout Ethiopia also heavily persecute Christians. Freedom of religion is guaranteed in Ethiopia, and the government generally works to protect the rights of Christians. However, vestiges of Communist rule lead authorities to monitor the activities of churches and Christian organizations, particularly those that are evangelical. Still, evangelical churches in Ethiopia continue to establish other churches and send missionaries to difficult areas, resulting in church growth.
MAJOR RELIGIONS: Ethiopia is still a majority Christian country (42 percent Orthodox and 17 percent evangelical), but Islam is growing and Muslims now compose nearly 40 percent of the population.
PERSECUTOR: Believers living in the north, south and east face harsh physical and societal persecution, especially those who convert to evangelical Christianity from Islam or the Orthodox Church.
WHAT IT MEANS TO FOLLOW CHRIST IN ETHIOPIA: Most Christians worship freely and openly. However, evangelicals sometimes face pressure to join the Orthodox Church, and Christian converts from Islam face great challenges and even death threats in Muslim-majority areas.
ACCESS TO BIBLES: Bibles are printed, sold and distributed in Ethiopia with no restrictions. However, in many rural areas, believers can be severely persecuted for owning a Bible.
VOM WORK: VOM helps rebuild destroyed churches and believers’ homes, helps care for widows of martyrs, provides Bibles to believers in persecuted areas, supports local church evangelism efforts and equips pastors in difficult regions.