Recent political unrest in the country of Ethiopia caused some frightening moments for missionaries and pastors of WELS and our sister church bodies in Africa.
Last week, two events scheduled to take place in Ethiopia had to be canceled when riots broke out in several cities. Representatives of the African churches belonging to the Confessional Evangelical Lutheran Conference had planned a meeting in the city of Bishoftu. That meeting was to conclude with the dedication of a new building to house a theological training school operated by the Lutheran Church of Ethiopia.
When the rioting broke out, the U.S. State Department issued a strong advisory that all U.S. citizens should return, if possible, to Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, by air travel or take shelter immediately. After some rather close encounters with armed mobs, World Missions Administrator Larry Schlomer and Professor Emeritus Forrest Bivens, who were already in Ethiopia for the planned events, were able to follow WELS Risk Management’s plans and make their way safely out of the country. WELS President Mark Schroeder, who arrived in Ethiopia just as the rioting began, was also able to return safely to the United States. All representatives from other African countries and WELS missionaries were also able to depart safely.
News reports indicate that the decision to leave was a wise and necessary one. More than 60 people were killed and more than 200 injured when the rioting spread to Addis Ababa.
We pray for the safety of our brothers and sisters in the Lutheran Church of Ethiopia and for the end of the violence in a normally peaceful country.