[ACNS, by Gavin Drake] The Archbishop Emeritus of Burundi, Bernard Ntahoturi, joined a delegation from the World Council of Churches (WCC) last week in a solidarity visit to churches in Ethiopia. The delegation, led by WCC Central Committee Moderator Dr Agnes Abuom, from the Anglican Church of Kenya, met leaders of member churches, an interfaith body and political leaders, including the Ethiopian President, Dr Mulatu Teshome.
“The visit was organised in response to reports of unrest in Ethiopia and, most recently, hundreds of deaths of protesters, large numbers of arrests, and a declaration of a state of emergency by the Ethiopian government,” a WCC spokesperson said.
“The WCC delegation recognised the history and importance of Ethiopia for Africa. The delegation reflected that interfaith relationships in Ethiopia are strong, cooperative and productive, modelling cooperation in peace-building.”
Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, is home to the African Union, in which the All Africa Conference of Churches (AACC) has observer status. And the country has seen “sustained and progressive economic growth for more than two decades, with peace and stability over the last 20 years,” the WCC said.
The delegation met with leaders of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, the Ethiopian Evangelical Church and the Ethiopian Catholic Church, as well as the Inter-Religious Council of Ethiopia.
In addition to meeting President Teshome, the delegation also met foreign affairs minister, Dr Tedros Gebreyesus.
“The visit was intended primarily as a gesture of solidarity with WCC member churches in Ethiopia,” the WCC spokesperson said. “The delegation conveyed its concern about the situation, and expressed the WCC’s support of member churches and initiatives already undertaken by the religious communities, and its hope that Ethiopia will continue its important role as a leader in the region and the world.
“The delegation communicated the shared experiences of WCC member churches which have dealt with similar occurrences in the region and beyond.”
Church leaders in Ethiopia asked the WCC and its member churches to “continue to hold Ethiopia and its people in prayer, and to support the constructive interreligious efforts currently underway, as Ethiopia works toward a just and peaceful resolution.”
The delegation also included Bishop Tor Berger Jørgensen, representing the Church of Norway and the Lutheran World Federation; Anne Glynn-Mackoul, representing the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and member of the WCC Central Committee; as well as ACT Alliance representative Gorden Simango, and WCC’s executive secretary for Africa, Dr Nigussu Legesse.