A Lenten season reflection about the Tigray and Ukraine conflicts

The capital city of Tigray, Mekelle, suffered over 24 hours of continuous artillery barrage against civilians in November 2020 Source EritreaHub

Ethiopia and Russia have long histories of Christian monasticism, scholarship, and devotion with magnificent cathedrals to worship Christ. Millions claim allegiance to Christ. The Bible story of Christ resisting the temptations of evil represented by Satan in the desert is routinely taught to children as exemplary conduct to be emulated. Yet here we are over 2000 years later with powerful country leaders, self identified as Christians in both countries, openly defying Christ’s teachings of love and peace instead giving in to evil actions of war including deprivation, violation, and murder for the sake of acquiring the power to rule over others. Its no accident that in the Old Testament God gave a clear and stern warning about how power can corrupt mortal men who become kings.

For over a year the Tigray and the Oromo of Ethiopia have been the targets of conflict and deprivation and now Ukraine similarly has been assaulted by Russia. The world has paid little attention to the African conflict while seemed fully engrossed in the Ukraine war. The Gospel of Matthew recites how Christ suffering isolation and hunger in the desert for 40 days as a man devoid of his Godly power resisted Satan’s offer of food when when he was starving, of proving God would intercede if he jumped off a cliff, and finally being given a throne to rule the world with absolute power if he subjugated himself to the Devil. Jesus wanted humankind to be make a free choice to follow his example.

However it is not only the leaders who are at fault. For Jesus also tells us that we cannot be idle witnesses to inhumanity. Watching others suffer whom we could help is the antithesis of Christianity. There is controversy about when or even whether war against others is justifiable but there is no controversy about actively preventing it and not empowering leaders who use it as a weapon of subjugation, revenge, or intimidation. I pray the world will take time to reflect on what it means to be a Christian and seek relief for the millions now at risk in Ukraine and Tigray.


Author: Professor Tony Magana

Professor Tony Magana is Head of the Department of Neurosurgery, School of Medicine, College of Health Sciences at Mekelle University in Mekelle, Ethiopia. He directs a neurosurgery residency and training program as well as neuroscience research.

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