Could you imagine being sent to prison simply for giving out some leaflets about a church event? We can often be nervous enough in sharing our faith with others, especially to strangers on the street, but what if doing so could get you into trouble with the police?
Despite the risks, four teenage girls Gifti (14), Mihiret (14), Eden (15) and Deborah (18) from the eastern Ethiopian town of Babile, decided to hand out a Christian book last September. The town is near Harar – recognised as the fourth holy city of Islam.
Local Muslims said the book was an insult to Islam. Later there was an attack on the a protestant church in Babile. The four girls were then arrested.
During police investigations, the girls were medically examined – a practice to determine the exact age of girls who don’t have recorded birth dates. In Ethiopia, anyone under 18 cannot be tried in an adult court. Despite this, the judge transferred the case to a higher court in Harar.
After delays and the release of the girls on bail (they had to pay about $135), they were sentenced at a court in Babile on 15 November for inciting religious violence.
Although Ethiopia is not a majority-Muslim country, the Harari region, close to the Somali border, has a significant Muslim presence. Ethiopia’s constitution guarantees freedom of religion, but Christians who formerly adhered to Islam can face discrimination, threats and sometimes attacks.
The four girls spent a month in prison, and were released on 22nd December. They are said to be ‘in good health’.
Ethiopia is ranked no. 22 on the 2017 World Watch List of the 50 worst countries to live as a Christian, produced by Open Doors, which works with Christians under pressure for their faith.
We support people who are beaten, tortured,
imprisoned, falsely accused, and hated simply for following Jesus.