The country on the Horn of Africa is a land of many contrasts. Strong economic growth on the one hand; great poverty on the other. Ethiopia has almost 109 million inhabitants and about 80 ethnic groups with very different cultures and languages. 58% are Orthodox Christians and only 2% are members of the Catholic faith. However, the proportion of Muslims is rising and currently stands at 34%. Islam is radicalising in some regions, and there have been repeated attacks against Christian institutions. ACN supports the Church in many ways to strengthen its presence so that it can meet the increasing challenges.
There was also good news from Ethiopia in 2019. President Abiy Ahmed received the Nobel Peace Prize in December. He was primarily honoured for his commitment to the peace agreement with neighbouring Eritrea – a sensational change in the relationship between two states that had been enemies for decades.
Nevertheless, serious unrest broke out in October, which was also directed against the President. According to police reports, at least 67 people were killed in the riots. This was triggered by smouldering ethnic conflicts in the Oromia region around the capital Addis Ababa. The Church was not spared violence either. In outbreaks of violence by radical Islamists, Church institutions have already been repeatedly attacked.
Traditional Islam in Ethiopia is increasingly being superseded by radical fundamentalist currents.Father Petros Berga
But despite increasing threats, the Catholic communities are growing, especially because the local Church runs many schools, kindergartens and social institutions. There have been many baptisms, above all in areas of first evangelisation, where people still belong to traditional tribal religions. This is a positive development that is not least due to the help of ACN. We assist with grants for the construction of churches and chapels and the procurement of vehicles for pastoral care over vast areas.
But the focus of our aid is on people who proclaim the faith. In 2019, for example, we again supported many projects for the training and further education of priests, religious and the laity, as well as the implementation of pastoral programmes. Pastoral care for young people is also a matter very close to our hearts, for it gives hope to many young people and encourages them to make a contribution to the future of their country instead of emigrating.