Ethiopia ranks at number 18 on the Open Doors World Watch Persecution list.
More than 11,000 people have been detained in Ethiopia in recent months. Five hundred people have died in violent anti-government protests in the last year.
And now four more people have been sentenced to serve time in jail, on the serious charge of “inciting religious violence”
These allegedly violent criminals are four Christian girls, called Eden, Gifti, Mihiret and Deborah.
Eden is 15 years old.
Gifti and Mihiret are just 14.
Deborah is 18.
Their crime appears to have been trying to distribute some Christian literature “to counter widely-circulated polemics by a well-known Islamic critic”, World Watch Monitor reports
The three teenagers and one older woman are to be sent to a tough adult prison in Gelemso in the largely Muslim region of Oromiya.
All hope is not lost. He did also allow for an appeal, once they have been moved.
According to World Watch Monitor, the four women have been convicted of distributing a Christian book, written in Ethiopia’s main Amharic language by a local author titled: Let’s speak the truth in love: Answers to questions by Ahmed Deedat.
The book countered attacks on Christianity by the late Deedat, who was said to have links with Osama Bin Laden, and who regularly ridiculed the Christian faith, in particular the Crucifixion and the Resurrection. Muslims in Ethiopia complained that they found the book’s defence of Christianity insulting to them.
The Oromiya region is at the heart of Ethiopia’s current unrest. The region’s people have long been persecuted and attempts to stand up for their human rights invariably lead to extreme action against them.
More than 20 people in the last few days have been charged with inciting violence in the region’s schools and with planning terror acts.
Nearly half of Oromos are Muslim but evangelical Christianity is the fastest-growing religion. In addition, many still follow the region’s traditional religion. Last month, nearly 700 people were massacred without provocation at the peaceful Irreecha cultural thanksgiving festival, causing international outrage and leading to a state of emergency being declared.
Soon after they were arrested Eden, who was beaten up on her first night in prison, told a World Watch Monitor source: “This suffering is an honour for us. We should expect persecution. We are not afraid. We are singing and praying here in prison.” Deborah said: “It is an honour to be jailed for God’s Kingdom”.