By / Oct 21

Over ​​the past few weeks there have been a number of international incidents that are worthy of our attention and prayer. Here are three you should know about from Iran, Ethiopia, and China.

What’s going on in Iran?

Since the Islamic revolution in 1979, Iran has had a law requiring all women—regardless of nationality or religious belief—to wear hijabs that cover the head and neck while concealing the hair. The Gashte Ershad (guidance patrols) are the “morality police” tasked with enforcing this and other dress codes, as well as modest behavior. The patrols are usually composed of men and stationed in vans in public areas. The patrols generally target women, who are taken to a ​​police station, correctional facility, or re-education center, where they are taught to dress “appropriately.” 

Earlier this month, 22-year-old Mahsa Amini was arrested by a patrol in the capital city of Tehran and allegedly beaten while inside a morality police van. She was taken to the hospital where she remained in a coma before dying three days later. 

Amini’s death sparked outrage and protest throughout the country. Women in the country have posted videos of themselves setting fire to their headscarves and cutting their hair in public to chants of “Woman, life, freedom” and “Death to the dictator”—a reference to the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. 

School children are protesting their leaders on an unprecedented scale that may prove difficult to contain, notes CNN. In attempting to put down the protest, an estimated 201 people—including 23 children—have been killed by Iranian authorities. The United Nation’s children agency UNICEF has also called for the protection of children and adolescents amid Iran’s protests. 

How to pray for this situation: Pray that God will protect the children and women of Iran, that the people will obtain freedom and protection for basic human rights, and that the church in Iran will be free from persecution. 

What’s going on in Ethiopia 

For the past year, the Ethiopian government and a regional military group have been engaged in a struggle for power and control over Tigray, the northern region of Ethiopia. Global leaders have so far hesitated to call it a genocide, referring to it as a civil war, or the Tigray War. But the atrocities committed by the Ethiopian and Eritrian governments make it clear the conflict is turning into a genocide. 

United Nations-backed investigators say all sides, including the Tigray forces, have committed abuses, but that the Ethiopian government is using “starvation of civilians” as a weapon of war. Tigray has been under a blockade for 17 months, and an estimated one million people are at risk of starvation. Because they are cut off from medical care, women are also dying during pregnancy or within 42 days of giving birth at five times the rate before the war. Children under 5 are dying at twice the pre-war rate, often because of easily preventable reasons. 

Altogether, an estimated half a million people have already died in the conflict. Tigray is “one of the worst manmade humanitarian crises in the world,” says the European Union foreign policy chief.

How to pray for this situation: Pray that the upcoming peace talks will bring an end to the conflict, that the genocide will end, and that the people of Ethiopia will find healing and restoration.

What’s going on in China? 

The 20th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party began this week in Beijing. The 2,296 delegates will represent the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)’s 96.7 million members in reelecting the current leader, Xi Jinping.  

The 69-year-old Xi was due to step down in 2023, but in 2018 he further consolidated power by having his party change the constitution to remove the limitation that no Chinese president shall serve more than two consecutive terms.

Xi Jinping was elected as the president of the People’s Republic of China in 2013. In addition to this role as president, Xi also serves as the general secretary of the Communist Party of China (putting him in control of the country’s political party) and chairman of the Central Military Commission (which makes him the commander-in-chief of China’s military forces). He also is head of so many other smaller decision-making bodies that he’s been called the “Chairman of Everything.”

After his first four years in office, the Communist Party voted unanimously to incorporate “Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for the New Era” into the Chinese constitution, an honor previously reserved for Mao Zedong and his successor, Deng Xiaoping. This change enshrined Xi’s political philosophy into the country’s supreme law and made any challenge to him a direct threat to Communist Party rule. As the BBC has noted, schoolchildren, college students, and staff at state factories are required to study this political ideology.

The reelection of Xi means the continuation of human rights abuse that have been the hallmark of his presidency. Under his rule, more than a million Uyghurs, a majority Muslim ethnic group living in Central and East Asia, have been detained in a network of concentration camps. The atrocities against them include forced abortions, rape, sexual abuse, sterilization, internment in concentration camps, organ harvesting, human trafficking, scientific experimentation, the sale of human hair forcibly taken from those in concentration camps, family separation, forced reeducation of children, forced labor, and torture.

In 2021, the Southern Baptist Convention adopted the “Resolution 8: On The Uyghur Genocide,” becoming the first major denomination or convention of churches to speak up on behalf of Uyghurs and use the label “genocide” for Xi’s crimes against humanity. 

How to pray for this situation: ​​Pray for the Uyghurs, that they will find earthly protection and an end to the persecution, and that they will obtain ultimate salvation by putting their faith in Christ. 

By / Mar 25

For the last month, the attention of the world has rightly been focused on ​​the illegal invasion of Ukraine by Russia. But the deadliest war on the planet is currently happening in Ethiopia. Global leaders have so far hesitated to call it a genocide, referring to it as a civil war, or the Tigray War. But the atrocities committed by the Ethiopian and Eritrian governments make it clear the conflict is turning into a genocide. 

According to researchers at Ghent University in Belgium, as many as 500,000 people have died from war and famine in the Tigray region of northern Ethiopia over the past 16 months. The estimate includes 50,000 to 100,000 victims of direct killings, 150,000 to 200,000 starvation deaths, and more than 100,000 additional deaths caused by a lack of health care. 

The United Nations has also said more than 500 rapes in Tigray have been reported to healthcare workers. Some Tigrayan victims of rape by Ethiopian forces and their allies recalled the rapists using phrases like “Tigrayans have no history,” “Tigrayans are beasts,” and that “we are raping you to cleanse your Tigrayan bloodline.” One Tigrayan woman described how Eritrean soldiers ordered her father to rape her, then shot and killed him when he refused. The soldiers raped her instead.

Some Eritrean prisoners of war have confirmed that they were ordered to kill all Tigrayans above the age of 10 and also to prevent people from burying victims. Teenagers were reportedly killed while family members of murdered victims were prevented from burying their loved ones.

The conflict’s history 

The conflict began 16 months ago in Tigray. This region is located in the northernmost part of Ethiopia, and is the fifth-most populous of the country’s 11 regional states. In November 2020, fighting broke out when the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), a left-wing ethnic nationalist, attacked the Ethiopian National Defense Force (ENDF) Northern Command headquarters in the city of Mekelle. The Ethiopian national government responded by declaring a state of emergency in the region and launching a military assault to retake several areas controlled by TPLF. 

A week later more than 600 civilians were massacred with knives and machetes by local militias, while the government continued air strikes in the region using Chinese-made drones. Michelle Bachelet, head of the U.N. Human Rights Commission, says her staff have recorded hundreds of deaths from aerial attacks “apparently carried out by the Ethiopian Air Force.” Soon after the massacre, the military of Eritrea began occupying parts of Tigray to help impose a curfew in which hundreds were killed. 

Criticism of the conduct of government troops and their allies from neighboring Eritrea grew after U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken asserted that “ethnic cleansing” had taken place in Tigray. What began as a political dispute, soon developed into a campaign of genocide against minority Tigrayans. “The challenge in Ethiopia is very significant, and it’s one that we are very focused on, particularly the situation in Tigray, where we are seeing very credible reports of human rights abuses and atrocities that are ongoing,” Blinken told the foreign affairs committee of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Effects from the war in Ukraine

The Ethiopian government appears to be using the fact that the world’s attention has been diverted to engage in stronger genocidal measures. For example, government forces are preventing food aid and medicine from reaching Tigray, according to humanitarian groups. As Mehari Taddele Maru observes, “With 5.2 million out of 6 million people in desperate need of food aid, nearly 83 percent are food insecure, 40 percent are facing extreme lack of food and 900,000 live in a ‘famine-like’ situation. The death toll from this famine, used as a weapon of war, could exceed thousands.” 

While the war on Ukraine deserves our continued attention, we must not forget about the other countries where horrific acts of violence are occurring. “We are seeing clear evidence of [the war in Ukraine] draining resources and attention from other trouble spots in desperate need,” United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres recently told journalists.

Christians should continue to pray for peace in Ethiopia, for the protection of its citizens, for an end to government corruption, and for the Lord to provide food for the millions who are starving. We should also pray that fellow believers in Ethiopia and around the world would be allowed to minister to the physical and spiritual needs of these oppressed people with the hope of Christ. 

By / Aug 3

Since November, the Ethiopian government and a regional military group have been engaged in a struggle for power and control over Tigray, the northern region of Ethiopia. On June 28, rebels known as the Tigray Defense Forces occupied Mekelle, Tigray’s capital city, following the retreat of Ethiopian government troops, marking a major shift in the country’s ongoing civil war. Tigrayan leaders claim to be fighting for the restoration of their regional autonomy, guaranteed under Ethiopia’s constitution as a part of its governing system of ethnic federalism, while Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed seeks to preserve the country and its developing democracy. 

How long has the conflict been going on, and why?

Tigray has been occupied by Ethiopian military occupation and denied communications through the internet for eight months in an effort to isolate the rebellion. The national military invaded the region in conjunction with the national army of Eritrea, Ethiopia’s northern neighbor, in order to take control from the regional government known as the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, a longstanding political party. However, the Tigray Defense Forces have been reorganizing their armies to push back against the occupation, an effort that has escalated in the past week with their counterattack on Mekelle. 

For many months investigations on the conflict in Tigray were inconclusive because the Ethiopian government blacked-out communications from the region. The only commmunications from northern Ethiopia reported continued combat as well as growing reports of atrocities such as rape and civilian killings. Now, it is clear that Tigrayan forces are on the counterattack. 

What specific events led up to the occupation shift in Mekelle?

A deadly incident occurred on Tuesday, June 22, when a government airstrike killed dozens of people in a market in Tigray. Tigrayan forces would strike back a day later by shooting down an Ethiopian Air Force C-130 cargo plane over Mekelle. Ethiopian forces have since abandoned many strategic posts throughout southern Tigray, and thousands of their soldiers have been claimed to be captured by the Tigrayan military.

On Monday, June 28, the Ethiopian government announced it had called a unilateral cease-fire in Tigray, but it wasn’t clear if Tigrayan forces accepted the measure. Throughout the rest of the day, Ethipoian forces were spotted in vehicles leaving Mekelle. Later that afternoon, the interim government’s headquarters in Tigray were empty as federal police officers were seen boarding buses outside of the building. The strategy of the Ethiopian government is unclear, but nonetheless, Tigray is gaining ground.

How are Ethiopians and others reacting to this conflict?

The powerful advances of the Tigray Defense Forces are stripping the authority and credibility of Abiy Ahmed, Ethiopia’s prime minister. Ahmed, a 2019 Nobel Peace Prize winner, has been primarily concerned with democratising Ethiopia since beginning his position in 2018. Seven months into the civil war, his country is only becoming more divided. Christopher Clapham, an expert on Ethiopia at Cambridge University, believes the democratic efforts of Ahmed need a stronger coalition as a foundation for a new structure of the country. Drastic shifts through one prime minister could explain some of the backlash.

When Mekelle changed hands from Ethiopian occupation to Tigray Defense Forces, the city erupted in a celebration, complete with flags and fireworks. According to The New York Times, one passionate Tigrayan resident declared: “They invaded us. Abiy is a liar and a dictator, but he is defeated already. Tigray will be an independent country!”

Residents of Ethiopia, as well as international onlookers, are concerned that the new government will reject any outsiders and cause humanitarian crises as institutions are undermined by war. Ethiopia is briefing diplomats from Britain, Germany, Spain, and the United States on the potential for continued conflict as it seeks to preserve the Ethiopian federation. Although Tsadkan Gebretensae, commander of the Tigray Defense Forces, has called for a negotiated ceasefire in principle, he quickly followed that call by stating: “if there is no other choice, then the next choice will be: try to resolve [the war] militarily.” 

Pray for peace in Ethiopia, for the protection of its citizens, and for Christians to be able to minister to the physical and spiritual needs around them with the hope of Christ. 

ERLC intern Ethan Lamb contributed to this article.