Middle East and North Africa

Laws on the way to curb churches in Ethiopia

The northern State of Tigray in Ethiopia is promulgating a new law to restrict Christian activities within official church compounds only. This law will make it illegal for any church to carry out any activity outside the church building.

Analysts say this will invariably shutdown smaller churches who meet in houses and homes because they do not yet own their own buildings.

The law will affect Christians outside the Ethiopian Orthodox Church because the current requirement for land permits to build a church say the church must would prove that it has at least 6,000 members to get necessary permissions to start any constructions. This number is far above the total population of non-Orthodox Christians in the state, analysts say.

The law means also that missionary and evangelistic work in the state will be effectively banned under the proposed law.

Church leaders in Ethiopia have raised objections with Tigray State government but are yet to get any response. This law comes after a precedent set by Amhara State which has also restricted Christian activities outside church buildings.

This law is a crackdown against Pentecostal and protestant churches which that have become “one of the fastest growing evangelical churches in the world,” according to Allan Anderson who wrote “fastest growing evangelical churches in the world”.
Ethiopia, one of the very first nations in the world to accept Christianity, has always had a dominant Ethiopian Orthodox Christian Church. It, however, has a Sunni Muslim zone in the east, and there are animist traditional religious groups in the south and far western parts of the country. Ethiopia’s religious map has changed considerably in recent years. While these indigenous faiths are fast declining, Pentecostal and protestant movements have reshaped the religious terrain.