Thus says the Lord: Act with justice and righteousness, and deliver from the hand of the oppressor anyone who has been robbed, and do no wrong or violence to the alien, the orphan, and the widow, or shed innocent blood in this place. (Jeremiah 22:3)

The executive committee of the World Council of Churches (WCC), meeting by video conference on 9-13 November 2020, lifts up in prayer the people and churches of Ethiopia in the midst of a grave crisis resulting from the instrumentalization of ethnic and religious differences by politicians and extremists, threatening the very fabric of the nation and the security of all its people.

The current conflict between the Ethiopian Federal Government and the leadership and militias of Ethiopia’s northern region of Tigray has been preceded by a period of escalating tensions and violence targeting specific ethnic and/or religious communities. The WCC condemns the numerous brutally violent attacks against churches and communities especially affecting the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, on the members of any community defined by religion or ethnicity, on churches and holy places, and on civilians by armed groups. We mourn the deaths of so many people in recent attacks. We express our concern for the many people and communities displaced by the violence. We pray that they may be assured of their security and religious freedom, so that they may return to their homes. We denounce those who seek to foster tensions, division, antagonism and bloodshed among the people of Ethiopia for their own political purposes.

We urge all parties to remember the extremity of suffering inflicted on the people of Ethiopia by conflict and division in the past. We appeal for a retreat from the precipice of a new catastrophe, and a return to dialogue rather than conflict, to cooperation rather than division. We call upon the TPLF leadership and the Ethiopian Federal Government to explore peaceful ways of settling the conflict and disputes between them, to avoid a wider and more destructive conflict, and to observe their shared responsibility for protecting civilians.

The executive committee conveys the WCC’s support and encouragement to all the churches of Ethiopia to raise their prophetic voice for inclusive dialogue, peace, justice and unity against violence and hatred.

We acknowledge and express our profound appreciation for the continued inter-religious relations and cooperation between the Christian and Muslim leadership at the national level, and for their efforts for inter-communal peace and social cohesion.

The executive committee notes that the current acute crisis arises against the background of multiple concurrent challenges, including regional tensions associated with the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, the worst locust invasion in 25 years, serious impacts on food production, and the COVID-19 pandemic. Such a constellation of crises underscores the necessity of cooperation at this critical time. We convey our Christian solidarity to the churches and people of Ethiopia and the region as they face these challenges and the impacts on their communities, for the present and the future. We support any initiatives of the All Africa Conference of Churches (AACC), in cooperation with the local churches, for peaceful solutions.

We reaffirm the WCC’s commitment to supporting dialogue and cooperation between the churches and religious communities of Ethiopia and Eritrea in the interests of developing peaceful relations in the region, we welcome the renewed relationships between the churches of these two countries, and we pray that security and public health conditions will soon improve so that their cooperation and joint initiatives can continue to grow, for the benefit of the people of the whole region.