MFA condemns perpetrators of massacre in Ethiopia as ‘barbaric’

Poland’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated on Friday that it was “deeply concerned with the news of the massacre of civilians, which was alleged to have taken place at the end of last year in front of the Church of Our Lady Mary of Zion in Aksum, an Ethiopian province of Tigray.

“We strongly condemn the perpetrators of this barbaric crime committed in a place of worship. We expect the Ethiopian authorities to immediately take all possible measures to clarify its circumstances and punish the perpetrators,” the statement reads.

“We call on the parties to the conflict to refrain from violence and respect human rights, to ensure the safety of the civilian population, and to properly protect places of worship and freedom of religion. We appeal for unimpeded access for humanitarian deliveries to the Tigray province,” the MFA stated.

The statement was possibly prompted by reports by British “Church Times” that surfaced about a week ago, revealing that at least 750 people died in a massacre that was carried out in front of the Church of Our Lady Mary of Zion in Aksum in the Ethiopian province of Tigray. Reportedly, the people who tried to hide from the assailants in the church belonging to the Ethiopian Orthodox Church were dragged out of the building and shot to death.

Ever since the attack by Tigray People's Liberation Front aligned security forces on the Northern Command bases and headquarters of the Ethiopian National Defense Force (ENDF) in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray Region, the country has been wrapped in internal tensions and the integrity of the nation, a federation of ethnicities in fact, was put to a test. The crisis seems not solved just yet despite PM Abiy Ahmed Ali’s trumpetting of victory in December, when the capital of the province Mekelle was captured by the ENDF.

As Polish Radio reported, both sides of the conlifct provide information difficult to verify as telephone and internet connections with the region have remained severed since the early days of military operations. Moreover, data acccessibility is closely monitored by the Addis Abeba government. Estimates are that thousands of people died in the conflict and over 100,000 refugees fled to Sudan.

The city of Axum where the massacre took place is located some 50 km from the Eritrean border and used to be a bone of contention for both the country and Ethiopia before current PM Abiy managed to broker long-awaited peace between the countries. The bulk of the city’s population is Christian Coptic and belongs to the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. The Ethiopian tradition has it that the Arc of Covenant is being guarded at the Church of Our Lady Mary of Zion in Axum.

The past Ethiopian-Eritrean rivalry over the city is rooted in the fact that Axum used to be the first capital of an Ethiopian statehood and a place where Ethiopian Emperors used to be crowned. The city was listed by UNESCO in 1980 as a World Heritage site.