Religious riots in Ethiopia leave at least nine dead

October 6th, 2006 Print Print Email Email

Afrol News|6 October - The religious riots in western Ethiopia involving Muslims and Christians during the week have left at least nine Muslims dead, regional media reported. The death toll was confirmed by the Islamic Affairs Supreme Council of Ethiopia. An unreported number of Christians also are said to have been killed.

“Nine Muslims have been killed in clashes with Christians. I know some Christians have also been killed, but I don’t know how many,” Elias Redman, vice president of the Islamic Council, told the news French agency ‘AFP’. Mr Redman added that a number of houses were also burnt during the clashes between the Muslims and the Christians. He could not explain clearly the reasons that prompted the deadly violence, but said his Council was into investigations.

According to Christian sources, two churches have been set ablaze since the unrest started almost one week ago. These sources claim the violence began when militant Muslims interfered with the annual celebration of Meskel (“cross” in Amharic), the Ethiopian Orthodox counterpart of the Catholic feast of the exaltation of the cross.

Both sides however agree that the clashes started on 1 October in the outskirts of Jimma, a provincial town in western Ethiopia, some 500 kilometres outside the capital. As most of Ethiopia, the region is split among Orthodox (or Coptic) Christians and Sunni Muslims, almost at a 50-50 basis. Christians claim to be in a slight minority in Ethiopia.

The two main religions mostly have managed to live totally peacefully together during the last centuries. Lately, however, one has experienced an unsuspected wave of violence. In May this year, Christians and Muslims clashed in Jijiga, a town in eastern Ethiopia, leaving shops and homes vandalised.

Ethiopian Orthodox clerics have expressed concern about this increasing tension between Christians and Muslims. “This is a worrisome situation for us,” one official told local reporters. “These things never used to happen, but they seem to be starting now.”

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