Relief Appeal for Meserete Kristos Church in Ethiopia

Winnipeg — Mennonite Church Canada is launching an urgent relief appeal for Meserete Kristos Church (MKC) in Ethiopia. MKC leaders and adherents have lost their lives in the crossfire of a violent tribal conflict that began in the western region of Ethiopia in 2018.


The entangled knot of inter-ethnic fighting and the involvement of government military forces has worsened and forced many in MKC into life-threatening circumstances.

An MKC memo to MC Canada, dated February 12, 2024, said the humanitarian crisis has displaced over 80,000 people in the western Oromiya regional state, where almost one-third of MKC members live. MKC, which has a long-standing relationship with communities in the conflicted area, stated that armed groups have burned 49 churches to the ground, looted and damaged 81 churches, and killed 1,231 MKC members. Among the dead are 31 church leaders.

Destroyed and looted homes and farms have affected 155 pastors. Lost cattle and crops, besides loss of income from ministerial work, have left many without means to feed or clothe themselves or their families. Seed to sow crops is in short supply, and others have lost their businesses and jobs. According to Human Rights Watch, a drought in 2022 continues to exacerbate the crisis.

Unsafe transportation routes hamper pastors from ministering to their people and challenge aid distribution, even from major relief organizations, said MKC leaders Bekele Bejera and Tefera Sori (pictured) in a Zoom call with Werner and Joanne De Jong on February 10. The De Jongs, MC Canada Witness workers, serve as faculty and student support at the MKC seminary in Bishoftu, 40 kms southeast of the capital, Addis Ababa. The capital region and the MKC seminary campus are currently at a safe distance from the conflicted region.

The closure of hospitals has halted malaria treatments. Up to 10 family members in one household have died of malaria, said Sori. The conflict has also shuttered banks and schools in the region. Many are grieving and suffering from the trauma of losing spouses and family members.

The conflict has spread throughout the more rural regions of Oromiya as the fighting pushes civilians into hiding. Sori said that some MKC’ers have hidden fleeing civilians in their homes as fighters and military forces sweep through the region.

“The violence in western Ethiopia took many innocent lives. The rebel groups killed unarmed people, some of them in the churches,” wrote Desalegn Abebe, president of the Meserete Kristos Church in an email to Norm Dyck, Missions Minister at Mennonite Church Eastern Canada.

Pastors Bajera and Sori said MKC’s belief in non-violent peacebuilding creates a faith challenge they are prepared to live into. “God has attracted us and empowered us to live in this situation,” said Bajera.

“Our believers community do not want to kill anybody from any ethnic group because the word of God teaches us about peace,” said Sori. “We are at peace with them, even though they want to hunt us and kill us and displace us. We teach our believers community not to attack anyone, because the word of God teaches us to love our enemy.”

In response to the pastors, Werner De Jong said, “We have a lot of respect for your courage and engaging in ministry there.”

The pair of pastors asked for prayer support from Canadian Mennonites. Specifically, they seek prayers for peace, that displaced people may safely return to their homes, and especially for MKC pastors who continue to serve despite no source of income.

Abebe wrote that, “We taught our church members the theology of non-violence and they have been living with all people peacefully for years. Some of the victims' families stated that the losses they experienced were something they could not explain. On behalf of the MKC, I kindly request your solidarity with us during this trial time.”

The conflict carries implications for MC Canada congregations. In 2020, MC Canada had about a dozen congregations across Canada with roots in Ethiopia and Eritrea. Many have families, friends and loved ones who have been caught in the crisis.

Canadians can donate to relief efforts online via Mennonite Church Canada or by calling 1-866-888-6785.



MC Canada has related to MKC for more almost 20 years, helping its college develop faculty, programs, and constructing teaching and student resident facilities.

A communist regime (1974 – 1992) forced MKC underground, a period during which the church grew exponentially. Today, MKC is the fastest growing and largest Anabaptist/Mennonite denomination in Mennonite World Conference (MWC). According to MWC, in 2022 MKC had 1160 churches and 370,909 baptized members.

Media contacts:

Norm Dyck, Mission Minister: |tel. 226-476-2500 ext. 707

Jeanette Hanson, Director, International Witness: | tel. 306-212-8999

Photo: MKC Pastor Bekele Bejera (left) and Tefera Sori, MKC Evangelist and Missions Director (Zoom screengrab, Feb. 10, 2024)