Despite making up over 60% of the Ethopian population, Christians living in the southern Oromia state have faced a dramatic escalation in attacks by Islamist gangs pillaging villages.
At least 500 Ethiopian Orthodox members have been killed since June according to the Barnabas Fund, a charity working to defend persecuted Christians in the Third World.
The victims include pregnant women, children and whole families in some instances, in a wave of violence sparked by the shooting dead of popular Oromo singer, Hachallu Hundessa, in Addis Ababa on June 29th.
Hundessa, a popular musician known for highlighting the plight of the Oromo people, was himself a member of the Ethiopian Tewahedo Orthodox Church, with the public outcry following his death resulting in the deaths of over one hundred more civilians in clashes with security forces.
Church leaders are pointing to a worrying rise in Islamist attacks by ethnically Oromo Muslims as door-to-door executions continue, with members of Qeeroo, a Muslim youth movement, thought to be responsible.
Car-loads of extremists carrying guns, swords, spears and machetes travel to Christian villages where parents are often brutally murdered in front of their children.
Witnesses report gangs carrying lists of Christians to be killed, with policemen sometimes refusing to intervene as businesses, houses and whole villages are pillaged by the Islamists.
The Barnabas Fund reports that corpses are being desecrated by the militants, with the bodies of some victims being dragged through the streets.
“Many still live in fear. Christian leaders from all denominations visited the areas. I watched news where priests and pastors physically wept in tears while listened to horrors from the victims’ families”, said one charity worker in the region.
Barnabas contacts say the “targeted genocide” of Christians by the extremists is continuing in the south, south-east and east of Addis Ababa, with Christians leaders urging people to contact their Ethiopian embassy in a bid to end the atrocities.