Voice of America
330 Independence Avenue SW
Room 1718a Washington DC 20237
Once again, Voice of America Amharic Section is fomenting the religious tension in Ethiopia by grossly exaggerating the recent incident in South West Ethiopia where a church under construction was demolished. We are shocked and totally amazed how this incident was presented as a major incident by VOA for several days with different account as to the number of churches burned. The VOA correspondent from Ethiopia in his first report mentioned that 53 churches were burned and the next day the number became 41 churches. This biased and irresponsible journalism can have dire consequences. VOA is widely heard and followed by a large segment of Ethiopians of diverse religious backgrounds. It is like adding fuel to the fire. The report is not even remotely closer to what happened. The incident according to the locals of nearly 85% Muslims is as follows:
The incident happened on March 02, 2011 when Muslims who were employed as day laborers (for the construction of a Church) discovered the pages of the Quran being used by Protestant Church officials as a toilet papers and alerted the local Muslim community of the situation. Upon receiving the information, Imams of the Mosques in the town contacted the local police and urged them to go to the site and investigate the situation. Police dispatched to site confirmed the abuse and found waste bins in three separate worshiping houses filled with pages of the Quran which were used as cleaning material. Additional copies of the Quran were also discovered in the houses. The police left the site without taking any measure. This situation angered Muslims who demanded for the abusers to be arrested and material evidences be taken for further investigation and as evidence. Embolden by the action of the police, the employers started scolding those Muslims laborers who were thought of alerting the Muslims of their abuse. The situation escalated in short time to serious argument resulting in the wounding of three people and burning of the three houses. The Church under construction was also demolished. The local police was able to bring normality to the town only after it received help from federal police stationed in Jimma city and other nearby stations. Those wounded were taken to the nearby hospital for treatment.
While VOA outrageously reporting the incident in Hasendabo, it has failed to mention the recent incident in December of 2010 where without any provocation eight Mosques in Gurage Zone were set on fire and what happened on the night of January 08, 2011 in the heart of the Captial, Addis Ababa, where Tabarak Mosque, located in what is locally known “German Gibi” – Mexico Square was set ablaze.
We the undersigned concerned Ethiopians, believe in freedom of worship and we condemn in the strongest term the burning of any place of worship or the destruction of any property or life. We urge Ethiopians of all persuasions to work for peace based on mutual respect and understanding.
We urge VOA to practice responsible journalism to spread the values on which the USA was founded and not to become the agents of strife and bloodshed. We demand that VOA cease from spewing the venom of hate under the guise of freedom of speech. VOA Amharic Section should and must work to advance the interest of the United States not the personal political and religious line of its employees.
CC: US State Department, Washington, DC
US Embassy, Ethiopia
Ethiopian Embassy, Washington, DC