Year: 2020
World Watch List: 39
Score: 63
Leader: President Sahle-Work Zewde
Population: 110 million
Christian: 65 million
Main Religion: Christianity
Government: Federal Republic
Source of Persecution: Islamic Oppression
In cooperation with local partners and churches, Open Doors supports the persecuted church in Ethiopia through:
  • Biblical, leadership, discipleship, and cross-cultural evangelism training
  • Livelihood support
  • Emergency aid relief
  • Preparing believers for persecution

“They killed my father because he was a believer. They wanted him to follow traditional rituals like them, drink like them and behave like them but he refused. He was a very good person. He loved the Gospel. He loved God a lot! After his death, I gave up on life.”

– Bachu, a Christian teenager in Ethiopia whose father was killed for his faith


Source of persecution: Islamic oppression / Denominational protectionism

Persecution from within and without
In Ethiopia, all Christian communities are affected by persecution, though non-traditional Christians face the harshest persecution from the Ethiopian Orthodox Church (EOC), and believers with a Muslim background from their family members and community. Some leaders and ultra-conservative groups in the EOC see non-Orthodox churches as a Western religion that would threaten Ethiopian nationalism and culture, especially since these churches have been growing rapidly. In Muslim-majority areas, radical Islam is spreading with influence from neighbouring Somalia and Sudan.

Urban vs rural
The degree of persecution faced by Christians often depends on where they live. For example, in urban areas and areas that are mainly Protestant, Christians who leave the Ethiopian Orthodox Church will face less serious consequences. But in rural communities that are mainly made up of members of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, Christians who choose to be part of another denomination are often ostracised or even attacked.

Meanwhile, in the eastern and south-eastern areas that are mainly Muslim, Christians are often denied access to communal resources or even attacked by extremists. Muslim religious leaders preach hatred and violence against them. In places such as Ogaden, Islamic mobs attack churches.

Converts to Christianity
Converts from Islam and cross-denominational converts from an Orthodox background face harsh mistreatment from their families and communities. They will be harassed, disowned, or lose custody of their children

Please pray:

  • That the Lord will equip the church to offer Christians hope in their tough circumstances, to be ready to reach out with the gospel to their persecutors and to respond to persecution in a way that honours Christ.
  • Christians in some areas experience hostility from tribes that demand them to participate in tribal practices and retaliate if they fail to do so. Pray that believers would be able to remain firm in the faith despite pressure to compromise.
  • For unity and mutual understanding in the church, especially between the EOC and Protestant churches.

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2020 World Watch List Map

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