The crisis in Ethiopia has not affected Fida’s work – a partner is concerned about the church members

ethiopian woman walking on a street

The unrest that erupted in Ethiopia in early November is slipping into the chaos in northern Tigray region. Roads, airspace, and telephone and network connections to Tigray County have been down throughout November, making it difficult to obtain up-to-date information from the area. There has been talk in the news about the threat of civil war. Fida employees report on how the crisis has affected their daily lives in the country.

Violence in Ethiopia is intensifying human distress in the northern region. The UN children’s organization UNICEF fears that the Corona pandemic and conflict are already threatening the well-being of 2.3 million children. The UN Humanitarian Aid Department (OCHA), for its part, reports that some 600,000 people are already dependent on food aid in the northern region, and their plight is exacerbated since it has not been possible to deliver all of the aid to the region.

In Ethiopia Fida works in cooperation with local Pentecostal churches. Three Finnish missionary families live and work in Ethiopia. Auli and Taneli Halonen teach in an international school, and Helena and Samuel Tedder train church staff in holistic mission work in Addis Ababa, the capital. Anu Heikkilä does diaconate work and lives in the Bishoftu (formerly Debre Zeit).

All Fida’s workers live far from the fighting. They report that the conflict elsewhere in the country is mainly reflected in tightening security measures: the military has increased its presence in cities to prevent possible attacks, the roads have check points and people have reduced movement to some extent.

Samuel Tedder says the conflict is hardly visible in the capital’s streets.

– Overall, the situation is serious and uncertain, but life goes on quite normally here in Addis Ababa. The conflict in the North is mainly reflected in the fact that there are more federal police on the streets and more inspections.

– We feel safe, but the situation has restricted movement and participation in some activities. The development of the situation is worrying. It adds to an already challenging start as we are settling in as new missionaries and the abnormal corona pandemic continues, Tedder says.

Also Auli and Taneli Halonen feel safe.

– We have a so-called “Run bag” packed, but otherwise we are not worried about the situation. In addition to God’s protection, we trust that Fida and our school, Bingham Academy, will closely monitor the situation and keep us up to date, the Halonens say.

Samuel Tedder adds that Fida employees have arranged things for a quick evacuation should the situation escalate.

– We have prepared for an emergency by procuring more food, water, and gas at home. We have also reviewed plans with others, in the event that the security situation worsens, and an evacuation is necessary.

All peaceful in Bishoftu

The situation has also remained calm in the town of Bishoftu, about 50 kilometers from the capital. The deaconate project in the area, supported by Finnish sponsors, that helps poor families is continuing normally. Fida’s Deputy Country Manager Anu Heikkilä reports that Fida has no sponsored children in the conflict areas.

– Concern about the situation in the country is constantly present. Public schools are closed both here and throughout the country. Only the 8th and 12th graders have continued their studies for the national final exams, which were moved from early summer to the fall due to corona constraints.

– We monitor the situation from various sources and follow the security instructions of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs and Fida. We keep in touch with local partners, other Finns and other mission organizations in the country, Heikkilä says.

“I’m worried about our church members”

However, Fida’s Ethiopian partner, the Guennet Pentecostal Church, feels the effects of the crisis. The church’s leader Tamirat Tariku, says in an e-mail that he is very concerned about the local congregations that are in the northern region.

– We have been in a complete news blockade regarding the conflict zone. As a leader, I feel great pain in this uncertainty when I can’t get in touch with members of our church. At the same time, I feel a real need to support believers in conflict areas now, Tamirat says, and asks all the friends of Ethiopia to remember the situation in the country in prayer.