Information regarding government mistreatment of Coptic Christians. [ETH5112]

Until 1975 the Ethiopian Orthodox Church was the established church of Ethiopia and was virtually synonymous with the state, where participation of the higher clergy in the councils of government was practised. [George Thomas Kurian, Encyclopedia of the Third World, vol.1., (New York: Facts On File, Inc., 1987), p.593.] Although the Ethiopian Orthodox Church was stripped of its temporal power, it still continued to flourish. [Kurian, 1987, p.595.] In a continuing effort to de-emphasize the presence and importance of religion, several restrictions have been placed on the Orthodox churches. [Kurian, 1982, p.668.]

The state of affairs in Ethiopia since 1975 was such that human rights were given a low value, because the government had suppressed revolts of minorities, Marxist and non-Marxist groups. [ibid.] Remarks considered critical of the government, failure to attend mandatory political or Kebelle meetings and suspicion of association or sympathy with organizations opposed to the government have all been reasons for arbitrary arrest and detention. [ Ibid.] As there is no official accountability, many Ethiopians have disappeared; arrested and held without any legal process or notice to the public or their families. [ Ibid.]

Although the 1989 U.S. State Department

reports that Ethiopian government policy "no longer ignores or tries to suppress religion", the report continues to state that government officials are prohibited from worshipping and that kebelle officials reportedly discourage church attendance by scheduling mandatory meetings on Sunday mornings. [ U.S. State Department, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1989, (Washington: U.S. Government Printers, 1990), p.116.] The same source reports that the Ethiopian government expunges reference to any deity from official statements and publications. [ibid.]

The changing religious situation as reported by the above source states that there is increased government respect for freedom of worship and proselytizing for members of the Ethiopian Coptic Orthodox Church and the Islam faith. [ibid.]

For further information on the Coptic Church, please see the attached excerpts from:

George T. Kurian, Encyclopedia of the Third World, Revised Edition, vol. I. New York: Facts On File, Inc., 1982, pp.593-594.

U.S. State Department, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1989, Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1990, pp.116-117.