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Card. Souraphiel: Fundamentalists in Ethiopia are persecuting with political intentions

There are currently 17 African cardinals, and one of the most active is Ethiopian Berhaneyesus Souraphiel.

He's 71 years old and he studied in London and in Rome. As a priest, he spent 7 years in jail during the communist repression in his country.

The cardinal explains that in Ethiopia, Christians and Muslims have always lived together peacefully. They even collaborated in the construction of churches and mosques, but lately the situation is changing for political reasons.

Metropolitan Arch. Addis Abeba
“We are having extremist fundamentalists who come, and they are creating persecution, burning churches, sometimes they burnt also mosques. So all Christians and Muslims are really confused: what is happening? What is happening? So there is a new type of persecution which is more not religious, but political.”

The cardinal says the bodies of 30 Ethiopian martyrs were found. They were killed in Libya in 2015 by the Islamic State. The cardinal would like to recover the bodies and bury them in his country.

Metropolitan Arch. Addis Abeba
“They said, 'You become Muslim or we will kill you. So, they said, 'We are Christians.' So they were killed in the Libian dessert.” “Persecution is as old as Christianity, whether it was with the Roman Empire, the Roman rulers who persecuted Christians, and later on, Christianity, with the help of God converted the Roman Emperors, and the Roman Empire became a Christian Empire. But later on also there were persecutions.”

In the West, he said, there is a subtle form of persecution against Christianity, which is indifference.

Metropolitan Arch. Addis Abeba
“Philosophy, theology, all these are the gift of the Church to Europe. We feel Europe should really take this seriously and not to be ashamed of the Christian heritage.”

Although only 2 percent of the population is Catholic, the cardinal was appointed coordinator of the National Commission for Reconciliation and Peace, after 20 years of war with Eritrea.

It's a delicate job, in a region saturated with tensions, especially ethnic and political.

Translation: Melissa Butz