Originally published in The Gospel Herald
Ethiopia began three days of national mourning on Tuesday, with joint Christian and Muslim prayers for nearly 30 Ethiopian Christians slaughtered by Islamic State militants in Libya.
The massacre, which came to light over the weekend following the release of a highly-produced video titled “Until There Came to Them Clear Evidence,” has stunned the predominantly Christian country. The video shows ISIS fighters in Libya holding captives, who are described as “followers of the cross from the enemy Ethiopian Church.”
A masked fighter wearing black makes a statement threatening Christians if they do not convert to Islam. The video shows one group of about 12 men being beheaded on a beach and another group of at least 16 being shot in the head in a desert area. The Ethiopian victims are widely believed to have been captured in Libya while trying to reach Europe.
“I have never seen such a barbaric act. I am shocked. It is a ruthless act. I can’t think of him being slaughtered. How on earth can such a merciless and horrible act happen to humankind,” saidEyerusalem Asfaw, whose brother, Eyassu Yekunamlak, was among those slain.
“They are animals, they are outside of all humanity,” added Tesfaye Wolde, who saw his only brother Balcha Belete executed.
“I saw him kneeling, a masked man pointing a gun to my brother and his friend, with a knife to their throats.”
On Tuesday, hundreds of Ethiopians marched through the capital, Addis Ababa, demanding justice for the victims. There were reports of violence at the government-sponsored gathering at Meskel square, where protesters hurled rocks and scuffled with police while demanding justice for those slain.
The scuffles at the rally reportedly began moments after Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn finished his speech, where he urged Ethiopians to avoid making dangerous trips across the Sahara to Europe, calling it a “death journey.”
“We should strengthen our resolve against any form of terrorism and extremism,” he said, Reuters reported.
The massacre, which is the latest in a series of ISIS attacks targeting Christians, have been widely condemned from religious and political leaders alike.
On Sunday, Pope Francis expressed his “great sadness and distress” at the “shocking violence perpetrated against innocent Christians.” He also denounced the “continuing martyrdom being so cruelly inflicted on Christians in Africa, the Middle East, and some parts of Asia.”
Abune Mathias, the patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, called the killings “repugnant” and said the international community has a “duty to raise our voice to tell the world that the killing of the innocent like animals is completely unacceptable.”
The US also condemned the killings as an act of “vicious, senseless brutality.”
Meanwhile, Ethiopian lawmakers continue to debate a possible response to the Islamic State killings, but it remains unclear if military action is an option.