Magazine article The Christian Century

Protesters Disrupt Patriarch's Visit

Magazine article The Christian Century

Protesters Disrupt Patriarch's Visit

Article excerpt

Protesters hurled rocks, eggs and sticks at the patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church October 10 as he left the Interchurch Center in New York, charging him with sanctioning the murder of dissidents under the country's new regime, benefiting from tribalism and attaining his office illegally. "Stop killing Ethiopian Christians!" "Stop burning our churches!" "Paulos is a murderer!" chanted about 100 demonstrators from behind a police barricade after the arrival of Patriarch Abuna Paulos. Meanwhile, inside the center the patriarch, in office less than one year, celebrated mass in the U.S. for the first time since becoming the spiritual leader of the Ethiopian Orthodox.

Roots of the conflict that broke out on the sidewalks of New York stretch to the political strife in Ethiopia over the past several years. Last year the administration of deposed Marxist President Mengistu Haile Mariam was replaced by rebel democratic forces. The leader of one of those rebel forces, Meles Zenawi of the Tigre ethnic group, is now president of the newly democratized country. Some members of the Amhara ethnic group, which was in charge in the previous administration, see the new regime as being dominated by the Tigres.

In a statement released during the protest, Abuna Melke Sedek and Abuna Yesehaq, archbishops of the Ethiopian Church's Western Hemisphere Archdiocese, alleged that the other archbishops had yielded to "political and ethnic pressure" in installing Paulos, a Tigre, in office last year. For seven of the 20 years that Ethiopia was under Marxist rule, the patriarch was imprisoned for propagating the orthodox faith. He then spent ten years - 1982-1992 - in exile in the U.S., and during those years he established seven Ethiopian Orthodox churches in cities across the country.

Shortly after Paulos became patriarch the Ethiopian Orthodox Church in the U. …

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