NORTHERN ETHIOPIA: TIGRAY CHURCH STAYS AND SERVES AS CITIZENS FLEE WAR ZONE

Pastor “T” (name withheld for security reasons) conducted a wedding at his church yesterday. While Ethiopian weddings normally require Pastor T to coordinate many details, this one required more coordination than most.

Pastor T’s church is currently located in one of the hottest war zones on earth.

Simmering conflict between the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) and Ethiopian government forces broke out in early November. An estimated two million people in the region, roughly a third of Tigray’s population, are currently displaced. Roads in and out of the region have been barricaded, according to international observers. 

“There is currently no Internet and no banks, but we got lights (electricity) this week, praise God,” Pastor T told me. “To our people the problem is deep. Many elderly people and children are hungry and dying. In my church one child died. Because of the war, young women are being raped by the troops. Many buildings are destroyed. Still the war continues around us, now 10 km from my city.”

Pastor T and his church have been long-term partners with us in serving Eritrean underground Christians who fled across the border to the Tigray region as the result of persecution in their homeland. Eritrea has long been called the “North Korea of Africa” due to its severe persecution of Christians and political dissidents.

For years we have worked with Pastor T to provide trauma counseling and spiritual and physical care to the large Eritrean Christian population that spills continuously across the Eritrean/Ethiopian border into the Tigray region of Northern Ethiopia. But now the Tigray region has been reduced to a state of refugees. Many people have fled, but Pastor T and his church are staying out of concern for the Eritrean Christians who rely on the church as their only source of help now that UN and Ethiopian aid agencies have been blocked from accessing two of the many Eritrean refugee camps in the region.

We are currently following up on multiple reports that Eritrean Christian refugees in Tigray are being rounded up by Eritrean government forces and repatriated amidst the chaos in the region. The refugees regard the camps as no longer safe, and certainly no longer able to supply basic living necessities. Pastor T and his church are presently providing care for these Eritrean Christians despite being unable to care for themselves.

Pastor T wrote us, “You taught us to serve our people by whatever we have: our body, our blood, our food. Even though we don’t have enough food even for ourselves, we are using the opportunity of the hunger to share our love.”

Voice of the Martyrs Korea has found a way to transit funds into the region and has pledged to send the equivalent of 10,000,000 KRW to Pastor T this month, for his church and the Eritrean Christian refugees they are supporting.

Other NGOs are meeting the needs of those who are fleeing Tigray to safety, but at Voice of the Martyrs Korea our role is always to aid Christians who choose to stay and share the love of Christ—especially those like Pastor T who remain behind to care for the families of Christians who have been martyred or imprisoned because of their witness for Christ.

Voice of the Martyrs Korea is designating donations made this month to our Voice of the Martyrs Korea Families of Martyrs and Prisoners fund to this emergency.

Donation to VOMK’s Families of Martyrs and Prisoners (FOM/FOP) fund can be made at www.vomkorea.com/en/donate or via electronic transfer to

국민은행 463501-01-243303

예금주: (사)순교자의소리

Please include the name “FOM/FOP” on the donation. If we receive donations in excess of the amount of the emergency pledge, we will allocate them to its regular monthly financial support of the families of other Eritrean martyrs and prisoners, in Eritrea and the surrounding regions.

For more information on Voice of the Martyrs Korea’s partnership with Eritrean underground Christians, please visit www.vomkorea.com/en/eritrea.

About Pastor Foley

The Reverend Dr. Eric Foley is CEO and Co-Founder, with his wife Dr. Hyun Sook Foley, of Voice of the Martyrs Korea, supporting the work of persecuted Christians in North Korea and around the world and spreading their discipleship practices worldwide. He is the former International Ambassador for the International Christian Association, the global fellowship of Voice of the Martyrs sister ministries. Pastor Foley is a much sought after speaker, analyst, and project consultant on the North Korean underground church, North Korean defectors, and underground church discipleship. He and Dr. Foley oversee a far-flung staff across Asia that is working to help North Koreans and Christians everywhere grow to fullness in Christ. He earned the Doctor of Management at Case Western Reserve University's Weatherhead School of Management in Cleveland, Ohio.
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