(PRESS RELEASE) — The Ethiopian government is treading in narrow and treacherous waters replete with religious identities. It is breaching international covenants with regard to freedom of religion by engaging in the religious persecution of the Muslims who are half of its citizens. Its egregious acts are: 1) importing from Lebanon an alien ideology (Al-Ahbash) that is cloaked in faith but is incompatible with the prevailing peaceful Muslim belief system; 2) imposing forcibly this sect’s ideology on Ethiopian Muslims; 3) instituting an illegal indoctrination policy across the landscape using the Ethiopian Islamic Affairs Supreme Council (EIASC) as its instrument and; 4) implementing extra-judicial rulings on those resisting the application of these draconian rules. These unprecedented actions are in violation of its contract with the UN and the Ethiopian constitution. Although the Ahbash followers have the right to co-exist with other believers in Ethiopia, the government with financing from Lebanon should not impose their belief system on others. This is an anathema to religious freedom. Therefore, the government’s unparalleled grand design to replace and perhaps eradicate the Ethiopian Muslims’ millennium-old faith will not be tolerated.
Freedom of religion is a God-given right and a fundamental pillar of human liberty. This truth was also enshrined in the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights to which Ethiopia is signatory. Part of the UN’s preamble states:
“……freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people.”
The Ethiopian constitution also states in:
Articles 11, 13 and 27 respectively,
“….. the State shall not interfere in religious affairs;
“…..The fundamental rights and freedoms enumerated in this Chapter shall be interpreted in a manner consistent with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, international human rights covenants and conventions ratified by Ethiopia.
“….No one shall be subject to coercion by force or any other means, …to adopt a religion or belief of his choice.
Unfortunately, in contravention of the UN’s Human Rights declaration that it signed and the Ethiopian constitution that it ratified, the Ethiopian government has violated the rights of the Muslims in a barefaced manner.
Today’s world-wide rally lends credence and support to the peaceful protest that commenced in Ethiopia over a year ago. The non-political and purely religious grievances of the Ethiopian Muslims as reiterated by the 17 elected members of the Arbitration Committee (AC) and supported by over 80,000 signatures represent the objections to the government’s coercive imposition, indoctrination, and interference policy. These are laid out in these simple words: 1) Stop meddling in the religious affairs of the Muslims; 2) Stop imposing the alien ideology of the Ahbash on the Muslims; and 3) Stop hand-picking un-elected administrators and placing them in EIASC, which is controlled by covert government cadres. Echoing these simple demands should not have resulted in the incarceration of the AC members in maximum detention facility. We believe they are prisoners of conscience and should therefore be immediately released and returned to their families. We also demand the government to cease and desist its attempt to create schism between the Muslims and Christians who have lived side by side peacefully for centuries.
Also, the universal calls from expatriate nationals, the US Commission for International Religious Freedom, the European Commission, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, etc., have not budged the Ethiopian government from its contumacious position. The massive world-wide rally on July 26, 2013 is intended to keep these unfulfilled constitutional rights alive and garner support by appealing to public officials and inviting ordinary peace-loving citizens to join us for this historical rally.
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