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Ethiopian Muslims Warn Christians to Convert, Leave City or Face Death

Washington -- International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that Christians in the Ethiopian city of Besheno are being harassed and physically abused after Muslims posted notices on the doors of Christian homes warning them to convert, leave the city or face death.

Three Christian leaders were forced to flee the city and two Christians have been forced to convert to Islam. In the Muslim majority city, the entire evangelical Christian community consists of about 30 believers.

Evangelist Kassa Awano remains in critical condition after Muslims attacked him on November 29, 2010. A few days after the attack, nearly 100 Muslims surrounded a vehicle carrying Christian leaders on their way to negotiate for peace with Muslim leaders. Two men, Tesema Hirego and Niggusie Denano, were seriously wounded, and the other leaders suffered minor injuries. On January 2, Muslims assaulted Temesgen Peteros with a knife after he testified about the attacks on these Christians in court.

Christians in Besheno have been targeted by Muslims for many years. On May 21, 2004, Muslims murdered the 7 year-old daughter of Evangelist Tesfaye Hobe. Muslims continuously attack Christians for listening to Christian songs and watching Christian videos.

"We ask for our constitutional right [to freedom of religion] to be respected. We want this inhumane act to stop. We are unable to live in our own city due to the inhumane acts," one of the Christian leaders who fled the city told ICC.

The local Muslim officials of the city refuse to protect the Christians. The officials ignore their appeals for justice, declining repeated requests for the building of a place of worship and a cemetery. On January 19, a Christian mother was forced to bury her deceased daughter in a town more than 20 miles from Besheno, due to the absence of a cemetery for Christians.

Besheno is a city located in the province of Alaba in Southern Ethiopia. According to the 2007 national census, 93.84% of the population of the province is Muslim. Christians make up 5.82 % of the population.

"We are alarmed by the posting of threats on Christian homes and the attacks against Christians in Besheno. We urge Ethiopian officials to bring the perpetrators of the attacks to justice, protect the Christians from further attacks and grant them permits to build a place of worship as well as a cemetery," said Jonathan Racho, ICC's Regional Manager for Africa.


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