Persecuted family who witnessed father’s murder find hope and healing

Wasihun, 11, was just seven when his father, Motuma, was murdered in front of him, for being a Christian. The family gave up hope – sure they could not survive without him. But four years later, with support from Open Doors, the family has provisions, an income and are beginning to heal, though they continue to face persecution for their faith.

Wasihun’s family are the only Christians in an Ethiopian village of animists – people who believe that all things have a spirit that can help or harm humans. When Wasihun’s father, Motuma Kemede, refused to take part in animist rituals the community became increasingly hostile towards him. He was threatened and told to renounce his faith.

In August 2013, the villagers decided to carry out their threats and murdered him. Buze, Wasihun’s mother, remembers, “It was in the middle of the night when they broke into our house. I was shocked. There were three of them in the house, but others were waiting outside. I heard them shout to each other, ‘Stab him!’”

Wasihun said, “I was holding on to his legs when they dragged him over the floor. They stabbed him to death.”

Open Doors partners visited Wasihun and his family two days after this horrific event. The family were completely distraught. Wasihun kept crying and said, “My father promised to bring me roasted maize.” A simple plan had been brutally snatched away.

On top of the grief of Motuma’s murder, the family of ten wondered how they would survive without him – they had struggled to make ends meet even when he was alive.

“My father used to work from early until the sun set to fulfil what was needed in the house. And when he died, we all gave up. We thought we had no hope,” said Wasihun.

Open Doors has supported Wasihun and his family, ever since that first visit. Our local partners brought letters of encouragement from around the world, provided food and school fees for the children, and enabled Buze to start a small business.

Buze said, “Your presence was more valuable than anything for me. It made me feel I have brothers and sisters who care for us. My hope continues because you supported me emotionally and economically. With the help I had from you, I was also able to buy one cow and feed my children cheese, milk and yogurt. I am now also able to buy and sell things at the market. I also mill peppers and sell it.”

Wasihun was attending the same school as the children of Motuma’s killers. But now he’s been able to change schools. He said, “I am happy to go to school. I have friends to play with and I love learning.”

The family continue to face daily pressure from their animist neighbours; they have caught villagers breaking into their property and trying to steal their animals. Now when Wasihun and his siblings go to church, Buze stays at home to take care of the property.

“We feel there will always be people who provoke us. But when our opponents bully us, we kneel down and pray to God to give us patience.” said, Wasihun’s sister, Bachu.

The continuing support of their global church family gives Wasihun’s family hope for the future.

Buze said, “Thanks to you, my brothers and sisters, I have been able to more than survive with my family. I cannot imagine life without your help. I would not have survived with my nine children. I truly would love to bless all who showed their kindness to us. What can I say? I only have thankfulness to God for taking care of us.”

Wasihun said, “I was totally shocked when my Dad was killed in front of me, but God comforted us and told us that He will be the Father of each of us.”

Open Doors has launched an appeal to support children like Wasihun who have been bullied, attacked or orphaned because of their families’ Christian faith.

Ethiopia is number 22 on the Open Doors 2016 World Watch List. Although Ethiopia is a Christian majority country, complex religious and ethnic tensions combined with political and civil unrest mean that pressure on Christians is very high. In areas such as Afar and the Somali regions, where ethnicity and Islam are interconnected, Christians face discrimination and even violence from their families and communities. The government is becoming more authoritarian and has brought in laws restricting the areas religious institutions can engage in.

 Beth Fuller

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