Gospel witness during civil war
Posted on: 22nd February 2023
CMS Co-Mission Partners (CoMPs) Anwar Berhe and his wife Tsigereda Atankir are involved in church planting in Ethiopia. They have attempted to show the grace of Christ during recent times of civil war.
In the past two years, my country of Ethiopia has experienced war between its government and the Tigrean rebel forces (TPLF). Several million people have been displaced. Thousands of people have died or lost loved ones, along with destruction of significant public infrastructure. At its recent height, the Ethiopian war also brought multiple challenges to the daily lives and ministry of believers.
The first challenge we faced daily (though we were not located in a war zone) was spending several hours at security check points when I and other colleagues went to the office in the mornings, and came home in the evenings. We faced similar challenges when we went to the countryside for ministry. This situation put great pressure, anxiety and uncertainty on us. Since the security apparatus in some places (such as in the north) was weak, it sometimes proved difficult to speak freely about Jesus. But there has been more freedom of sharing the gospel in the capital city and some other parts of the country.
The second challenge that believers in war zones faced was harassment, confiscation of church properties, arbitrary killing, rape of women, and confiscation of personal items by rebel forces. My sister-in-law, her family and neighbours were living in a war zone. They were attacked by a rebel group and displaced, and their properties were taken. Their children were out of school for several months. Many lost jobs. This led to confusion, uncertainty and trauma.
The believers in Tigray region (in the north) suffered similar problems, and it became difficult for us to connect with our churches there. We worried about their safety and security.
High inflation has been another challenge created mainly by war, and it became very tough for low income families to feed their children.
Opportunities for mercy
Although the war brought lots of pain and suffering to our people, there have been opportunities for the church to show God’s mercy to both believing and unbelieving communities.
Our local church and other churches collected food items and money, and distributed them to displaced people. Several believers helped in trauma ministry to children and women. Ethiopian evangelical churches encouraged members to pray, and helped persuade government and rebel forces to come to the negotiating table to discuss lasting peace. These efforts gave hope to the hopeless, and opened doors for the church to share the love of Christ to unbelievers.
The task is not finished. The church will have opportunities to show the love of God through involvement in rehabilitation of displaced people, and rebuilding of the infrastructures destroyed during the war.
There have been difficult and frightening days. When rebel forces approached the capital city, where we live, there was fear of ethnic conflict and bloodshed. Some embassies evacuated their citizens. Expatriate missionaries, teaching in our college, left the country. Our family had to make a decision whether to leave the country, or stay with our students and church in order to strengthen their faith and share the suffering that they were passing through. We felt that this was a time of testing our faith and our hope in Christ, and we decided to stay with our people despite not knowing what the future held. Thank God, the government forces pushed back the rebel forces, and bloodshed did not happen in our city.
Thank you for standing with us. Your prayers and support have uplifted us in these difficult days. God heard your prayers, and at time of writing, the Ethiopian federal government has signed a peace agreement with rebel forces. The situation is getting better. Please continue praying for the successful implementation of the peace accord.
Pray with Anwar that the peace accord will continue to be implemented. Ask God for opportunities for Ethiopian believers to show God’s grace in word and deed.
 Although this article refers to past events, the current situation remains unstable.