Ethiopian authorities release some Salesian missionaries

People displaced by conflict in Ethiopia receive basic humanitarian aidPeople displaced by conflict in Ethiopia receive basic humanitarian aid 
A group of religious and lay members of a Salesian missionary organization who were arrested and detained 10 days ago by government forces has been released. Many others remain held in custody.

By Vatican News staff writer

There are 14 people still held in custody by the Ethiopian police, including Salesian religious, brothers, laity, employees.

According to Fides news agency, seven other Salesians, plus an employed woman, were released by the police on Saturday morning. On Monday they reportedly appeared before a court and should be released on bail.

State of Emergency and crackdown

Amid a recently declared state of emergency, Ethiopian authorities have begun a crackdown on people that the government says are “supporters” of the rebellious Tigrayan forces. The arrests have included Salesian missionaries, as well as 72 humanitarian aid truck drivers and 16 other UN humanitarian staffers.

 

The raid on 5 November was carried out on a centre in Gottera in Addis Ababa, and the 17 people who were arrested were taken to an unknown destination.

Arrests and detentions have continued in recent days with the arrests and subsequent release of an 80-year-old Salesian coadjutor and of an Italian humanitarian operator.

Bishop Seyoum Fransua, director of the Pontifical Mission Societies in Ethiopia, said he is happy to learn of the release of his missionary brothers. Speaking to Fides news agency he also expressed his hope for a quick release for anyone still in custody.

Local sources say the government aims to exert control over international cooperation groups present in the area (including those linked to the Catholic Church) to ensure they do not promote political activities and do not support rebel groups.

Humanitarian emergency

Meanwhile, in an increasingly difficult context due to the conflict between the Tigray People’s Liberation Front and the Ethiopian government, Salesian missionaries continue to provide life-saving support, with over 8,000 families assisted.

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reports that since fighting began a year ago, 400,000 people have been pushed to the verge of starvation. Another 7 million people need help to survive in the Tigray, Amhara and Afar regions. The conflict is estimated to have caused two million internally displaced persons and more than 100,000 refugees to flee to Sudan.

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