A bishop in Ethiopia has expressed his horror after the torching and looting of a church compound by the very people being helped by priests and Sisters.
In a message sent to Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, Bishop Abraham Desta described how Gighessa parish – “one of the oldest and biggest parishes of the Vicariate of Meki” – was attacked by “the people for whom, and with whom, we work very closely”.
Bishop Desta, the Apostolic Vicar of Meki, described how villagers “including young and old, women and children… started throwing stones and destroying Church properties”. The presbytery, diocesan pastoral centre, a small Ursuline convent and a clinic specialising in care for the disabled were all hit.
People attending a conference ran for safety, but the 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.
Bishop Desta added: “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.”
“They have lost everything, except the precious gift of life that is being given freely by God almighty.
“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.” The patients are currently being cared for in Shashamane.
Bishop Desta said the group returned and “set fire to the priest’s residence… [and] the Toyota pick-up car and destroyed all the other buildings… Moreover they carried away all that belongs to the centre – the furniture – as well all its food stores, and left the place completely damaged and barren. Even in the kitchen they have left nothing.”
Cows and chickens, which were kept on a smallholding attached to the parish, were also taken.
Bishop Desta added: “And today there is a question in our hearts and minds. Why Lord? Why like this? I hope that in due time the Lord will answer.”
But the bishop went on to describe how God had shown that he was with them throughout the attacks. “The Blessed Sacrament was left behind as the priests and the sisters were not able to go to the church…“But two young Catholic girls from Gighessa pretended to be among [the attackers and] went in the next day and took the Blessed Sacrament and [brought] it to the Shashamane parish, so it was saved.”