On February 13th, 2023 spokesperson Ned Price snubbed questions from an Amhara journalist, Mesfin Bezu, who asked what the US government’s position is on the schism in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church.
Last January, a group of bishops from Oromia and other southern regional states split from the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and established the Holy Synod of Oromia and Nations and Nationalities, accusing the ancient church of allowing the domination of ethnic Amharas over church affairs.
The newly formed synod has since dispatched bishops to central, western, and eastern Oromia, where the faithful have warmly welcomed them.
The Ethiopian Orthodox Church, for its part, excommunicated the spiritual leaders involved in the new synod’s formation, while Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed urged leaders on both sides to resolve their differences through dialogue and discussion.
“There should be no other synod [in Ethiopia]; one holy synod, one patriarch for the whole Ethiopian Orthodox Church,” said Mr. Bezu, founder of the now-defunct “TG Ethiopian Broadcasting LLC.”
If a peaceful solution is not found, the schism in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church will destabilize not only Ethiopia but also the region, Mr. Bezu added.
In response, Spokesperson Price emphasized US’s role in assisting in the resolution of Ethiopia’s two-year war between the federal government and Tigrayan forces. He also stated that it has been three months since the cessation of hostilities agreement was signed and that the US government will assist in building an Ethiopia that is stable and secure for all of its citizens.
Unfazed, Mr. Bezu interrupted “this has nothing to do with TPLF. Right now there is another very dangerous situation that involves politics, religion, and race.”
.@SecBlinken at release of the 47th annual Human Rights Report: I have determined that members of the Ethiopian National Defense Forces, Eritrean Defense Forces, Tigray People’s Liberation Front forces & Amhara forces committed war crimes during the conflict in northern Ethiopia. pic.twitter.com/N3QyQnqKEy
— Department of State (@StateDept) March 20, 2023
Mr. Bezu’s questions were not addressed by the spokesperson.
Back in Ethiopia, the debate continues between ethnic Oromos who applaud the new synod for effectively ending the Amhara hegemony over churches in Oromia, and Amharas who are outraged at losing this privilege.
Many might think this debate is about dividing the faithful when, in fact, it is Amharas being outraged not because they have been denied the right to run religious institutions in their own region but because their demand to maintain the control of churches elsewhere in Oromia and southern Ethiopia has been denied.