Impact Ethiopia | 30 April 2024

Amidst attacks, Ethiopian believer says ‘Glory to God!’


Show: true / Country: Ethiopia / Ethiopia
Desta Alemu* knows what it’s like to be hated and cast out for her faith in Jesus. After all, she has the ashes of her burned home and business to prove it. 

“When we left our home, it was very difficult,” she says. “We couldn’t even find a way to get out; we hid in a neighbor’s house three houses down. I can’t explain the pain and worry I felt in the chaos. Our possessions were destroyed, we lost everything …”

Desta and her family were caught up in religious violence in their community of Qibet in central Ethiopia. Last September, tensions between the Christian and Muslim communities in the town gave way to violence. According to local church leaders and Open Doors’ field contacts, the tension began after the town heard reports of Muslim students experiencing difficulties in the area, which some believed were caused by a Christian. Muslim extremists decided to take matters into their own hands, and the tensions boiled over into violence that targeted both Orthodox and evangelical Christians.  
During the conflict, more than 20 homes belonging to Christians were set on fire, and five Christian-owned businesses were vandalized and destroyed. Six Christians were physically attacked and taken to the hospital for medical attention.  
The military was called in to help with the situation—but after they killed two extremists identified as “mobilizers” in the violence, the anger of the Islamic militants continued, leading to threats of more attacks against believers in Qibet. 
In the light of these threats and the growing insecurity, more than 90 Christians fled. They sought refuge in a nearby town and were accommodated in a local church for their safety. Desta and her family were among those who fled. 

Thanks to your gifts and prayers, Open Doors partners provided these 90 believers with emergency support, including things like food, basic cooking necessities and soap. 

Desta is a widow and mother of four—her children are all adults. She became a Christian after the death of her husband about 15 years ago. And in the violence, she lost everything. 
After two months of peace, the local government announced that those Christians who had fled could return to their homes. But Desta wasn’t sure about returning to the place of so much destruction.  
“I advised against [returning], but [my children] made their stand, so we made our way back,” she remembers. “After we went back it was a very difficult situation, no one would talk to us; they wouldn’t even say ‘good morning’ to us.” 
The danger was also not over—the fragile peace in Qibet did not last long. “Fifteen days after we got back, there was a rumor about attacks happening again,” Desta says. “It was Friday, and they [Muslim extremists] went out for prayers—it was said they will [also] be going out for jihad, and I was frightened. I called my son and said, ‘Our possessions are already destroyed; if they come now they will kill you, my sons, so let’s leave this place!’ But he said, ‘Mother, we are not leaving this place. Let them come; if they kill us, then let them. We are going to God!’ and told me to make a decision.” Thankfully, peace was restored after the government intervened.  
Because of her ongoing anxiety and pain, Desta was one of the 20 people invited for Open Doors trauma care in February. Her heart was heavy—she worried how she would continue living with the people who attacked her, the same people who could attack her again. She didn’t know how to forgive and move past what happened. But after the trauma care, Desta says she has learned how to forgive and find hope in learning that Jesus passed through heaviness as well. 

“Because I came [to the trauma care seminar], countless things have changed in me,” she says. “One training was about forgiving and not doing wrong to other people, and I used to wonder how I was going to forgive and live with [my attackers]. But from the training I’ve received now, I’ve learned about humility, and how Jesus was also persecuted. I’ve learned that Christianity has been hated, and Jesus was also persecuted. Jesus was also hated, and He was also cast out. So, what I have learned is to befriend these people—having them as friends and telling them the gospel through my actions towards them. 

“We need to know they won’t love us, but we need to live for them.” 

Thankfully, the trauma care has helped Desta with her fears and to live for Jesus in spite of her difficult daily circumstances. “We are still living,” Desta says now. “Though we don’t have work, we have food and water, [and] we are still standing; in fact, I feel like God has given me a time of rest.”  

That kind of peace can only come from God—and it’s thanks to Open Doors supporters that Desta can see God’s perfect hope and love in the middle of her fear. “In all of this, I sleep in peace because God knows how He is going to let me live,” she says. “We don’t know our tomorrow; we only know our today. God only knows our tomorrow, so He will let us live as He pleases! Glory to God! 

“God wanted to grow us. That’s what I say when I think of this situation; God wanted to strengthen my faith, because He knows from where He has rescued me.”  

Although Desta has been freed from hatred and worry, the reality remains that she lives in isolation and persecution. Our local partners have told us this is how we can pray:
  • Pray for Desta and her family to have abundant grace amidst the continued persecution.   
  • Pray for the believers in Qibet, for perseverance and resilience in their situation. Pray that they will be salt and light in their communities. 
  • Pray for comfort and provision. Pray for restoration of their former lives and that they be able to live without fear in their hometown.
  • Pray also for the Muslim extremists in Qibet, that they will ask questions about their beliefs and turn towards Jesus as their Savior. 

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