The government of Ethiopia is crushing that African country's largest ethnic group, the Oromo people, and Faisa Atomsa (pictured here), pastor of the Ebenezer Oromo Evangelical Church in Riverside, just north of Kansas City, says hardly any Americans know about this human disaster or care.
Atomsa has been in the U.S. for 10 years and pastors the 55-member church (all Oromos) that meets in St. Matthew's Evangelical Lutheran Church in Riverside. It's part of the North American Lutheran Church denomination, though there also is another Oromo church in the Kansas City area affiliated with the much larger Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
Atomsa has two brothers and two sisters and other family members still in Ethiopia. They tell him conditions are deteriorating and that schools there have been closed for almost a month.
The response from the U.S. State Department and other parts of the federal government has been minimal and late. As this St. Paul Pioneer Press story relates, an interfaith coalition met recently "with U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, who shared with them a letter he wrote to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry urging stronger condemnation of the Ethiopian government's new 'land grab' policies. The letter, which is co-signed by U.S. Reps. Betty McCollum and Tom Emmer, highlights the recent crackdown on peaceful street protests."
More details about those protests and the reasons for them can be found in this report from the British newspaper The Guardian. As the story notes, "The students were protesting against a controversial proposal, known as 'the master plan', to expand Addis Ababa (the capital of Ethiopia) into surrounding Oromia state, which they say will threaten local farmers with mass evictions." The paper also reported that "rights groups say the Oromo have been systematically marginalised and persecuted for the last 24 years. By some estimates, there were as many as 20,000 Oromo political prisoners in Ethiopia as of March 2014." And, of course, the protests have sparked a violent response on the part of Ethiopian security forces.
Atomsa says the Ethiopian Master Plan will squeeze out many of the two million Oromo farmers who will have no place to go and no land to farm if the plan comes to fruition. His church, he says, has collected some money and sent it to a few of the families in Ethiopia most affected by the government's actions ("These are our brothers and sisters," he says), but it's a small effort in a land where "the military is everywhere now." And the Ethiopian government, he says, has not allowed journalists access to the area so they can tell the story of what's happening.
Atomsa, a graduate of Central Christian College of the Bible in Moberly, Mo., says he and his church members simply want to alert the American people to the humanitarian disaster happening in their home country so that they, too, can pressure the American government to respond in a more assertive way to protect a threatened way of life.
(More details about what's happening in Ethiopia can be found in the "Related articles" below here. And if you got to this blog posting through Facebook today, I'd ask you please to share this piece.)
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IS IT ALL ABOUT GETTING TO HEAVEN?
The recent debate about whether Muslims and Christians worship the same God produced lots of commentary, including this piece from AmericanThinker.com. It's a pretty reasonable look at the whole question but at the end, the author's conclusion brought me up short: ". . .when all is said and done, we should have one overriding goal: Get to Heaven." Really? I'm much more a proponent of the idea that we should worry less about getting us to heaven and more about getting heaven into us. I'm curious whether your one overriding goal is to get to heaven and, if so, how you keep that from being all about just you. The major religions, after all, say our first concern should be others. E-mail me your response if you want to: email@example.com.