Bishop condemns attack on Church, centre, convent and a clinic for the handicapped and disabled by ‘the people with whom we work very closely’ as a year's worth of food is stolen
An Ethiopian bishop has expressed his horror after the torching and looting of a church compound.
In a message sent to Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), Bishop Abraham Desta described how Gighessa parish—‘one of the oldest and biggest parishes of the Vicariate of Meki’ was attacked by ‘the people with whom we work very closely.’
Emergency aid has been rushed out to Ethiopia by ACN in January amid reports that the famine crisis affecting millions of people has dramatically worsened.
Bishop Desta (above), the Apostolic vicar of Meki, described how villagers ‘including young and old, women and children…’ started throwing stones and destroying Church properties; including the presbytery, diocesan pastoral centre, a small Ursuline convent and a clinic specialising in care for the handicapped and disabled.
More than 55 people from around the world attending a conference on nursery education at the pastoral centre were whisked to safety, but the religious sisters stayed behind, refusing to leave patients at their clinic, until eventually they too fled the scene.
Having set fire to the presbytery, the attackers made off with a year’s supply of food, as well as livestock including cows.
“The Ursuline Sisters who run the clinic were left behind with the patients as they were not willing to leave the patients alone, but the people did not spare them,” Bishop Desta added.
Having demanded that all the clinic’s goods be handed over, the mob ‘began to destroy and to take away everything including the personal clothes in front of the sisters.’
“Sad to say no one went to help the sisters, but by God’s grace they managed to reach Shashamane, the nearest parish, along with the patients and spend that night in the parish,” the bishop said.
The patients are currently being cared for in Shashamane.
“They have lost everything, except the precious gift of life that is being given freely by God almighty,” the bishop said said. “And, sad to say, all this [was] done by the people of the locality whom [the sisters] were serving, whom they know very well—if not all [then] at least a good number of them.”
Bishop Desta said those attending the nursery conference had escaped without harm during the February 18 attack.
“The Lord was so good that he made all the arrangements to take the participants away from the place in short time safe and sound,” he said. “But… soon after the group left the miscreants came back again and put fire to the priest’s residence… [and] the Toyota pickup car and destroyed all the other buildings…
The attackers seized more than 12,000kg (26,455 pounds) of food including wheat, rice, and pasta that was the centre’s supply for the whole year. Cows and chickens, which were kept on a small holding attached to the parish, were also taken.
The only building in the compound that was not attacked was the school.
“And today there is a question in our hearts and minds: Why Lord? Why like this?” Bishop Desta asked. “I hope that in due time the Lord will give us an answer.”