A $10,000 grant from the United Methodist Committee on Relief was announced July 11 after 37 people, including some United Methodists, were killed during an attack in Gambella in western Ethiopia.
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The clash between separatists and government forces in June lasted for three days. At least three of the deceased were members of Ethiopia United Methodist Church.
The UMCOR grant will provide food and hygiene kits and address other immediate needs of people affected by the civil unrest. Late in 2021, the Ethiopia United Methodist Church received an UMCOR grant to address flooding. Plans are also underway for a larger-scale relief project there.
During the fourth session of the Kenya-Ethiopia Annual Conference held in Nairobi March 10-13, Ethiopia became a district, having been a mission area for a few years under the conference. Currently, the church in Ethiopia has five mission areas: Jimma, Nekemty, Awassa, Addis Ababa and Gudare.
The Rev. Gezu Mossissa, Ethiopia District superintendent, said the church needs to show agility as it seeks stability.
After visiting the bereaved church families and the hospitalized survivors of the vicious attack, Mossissa said that children were among the casualties.
Mossissa urged Christians in Gambella to be determined and ready to take an active part in the needs of the people around them.
The Rev. Obang Olamo, senior pastor at Ethiopia United Methodist Church, said the attack forced thousands of people to run for their lives and seek refuge in bushes, church compounds and public buildings.
The Gambella Liberation Front/Army and the Oromo Liberation Army had earlier declared that they were undertaking a coordinated offensive on the Gambella region's capital city, as verified by the regional state's announcement. The OLA also said its fighters were battling with government forces in two towns in western Oromia: Dembidolo and Gimbi.
The attack preceded a Gambella regional state’s security council meeting held on June 6 that gave priority focus to “illegal and lawless” forces operating in the region. The security council also agreed that the development of the Gambella region will not continue unless these shortcomings, both in urban and rural areas, were addressed in a short period of time.
Describing the current state of the city, Olamo said, “People have been released from church and school compounds but the situation is still very tense.” Olamo said the critical problem is that people are suffering from hunger and distress due to the loss of property through destruction and vandalism.
“Communities in Gambella need food support, as many children and the elderly have become very weak after spending days without food,” Olamo said.
Mossissa said humanitarian aid is needed to “cushion our church members against the impact of the war.”
“We believe that in crisis, God glorifies himself and uses the church to do it,” he said. “The tension in our cities is real; you can feel it in this frozen air.
“Should there be more chaos and confusion, the United Methodist churches could be lighthouses of hope and security in their communities.”
"The Gospel will provide relief, hope and healing to broken, fallen and terrified cities in Ethiopia," Mossissa said. "We have God's power to achieve this. We can do it by God's grace, and we shall do it for God's glory."
excerpt from a story by Gad Maiga, communicator for the Kenya-Ethiopia Conference.
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