Why are America’s religious leaders silent about the suffering of Tigray?

Tigrayans waiting in a clinic with little supplies
Source Doctors Without Borders

Why are member denominations of the National Council of Churches all but ignoring the catastrophic suffering and death in Tigray while being fully engaged and concerned appropriately about the horrors of the Ukraine invasion by Russia. Apart from an initial statement in November 2020 the NCC has been silent ever since.

The situation in Ethiopia and Tigray should be especially concerning for Christians as the Christian faith has been horribly twisted by many Protestant and Ethiopian Orthodox leaders to justify extermination of the Tigray which is clearly blasphemy to the highest degree. It was just a generation ago the Christian Church was slow to act when Italian priests blessed weapons and justified the Italian invasion of Ethiopia. A few years later the world Christian community remained passive to the initial acts against Jews in Nazi Germany which no doubt empowered its ultimate descent into a genocide that killed over 6 million. Already half a million have died in Tigray from civilian deaths from military action followed by a siege which cut off supplies of medicine and food. Tens of thousands are incarcerated only because of their ethnic identity. Horrible violations of thousands of women have occurred. Everyday the siege continues brings death to another 1000 people.

The founding of the United States of America was based upon a core religious belief stated in Declaration of Independence  that

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”.

This assumption comes the creation story of man by God in the Book of Genesis and is shared by the Abrahamic faiths of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The Prophet Isaiah in the Old Testament tells us

Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause. (Isaiah 1:17 ESV)

It is not ironic that this week the Christian calendar shared by many members of the National Council of Churches honors the life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, German theologian and martyr, who died opposing Hitler’s rule. A major theme of his ministry was that Christians cannot stand idly by in the face of evil.  He said

Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act. 

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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