Please pray for Tigray

Where is Tigray?  Many people have not even heard of Tigray.  But I have because I lived there for two years in the mid 90’s in a town called Adigrat and two of my three adopted Ethiopian children are from Tigray.  We were neighbours of the Irish LSA Sisters, who had gone on mission there in response to the famine in the mid 80’s and we became close friends. We lived in peaceful times, although the memories of the civil war with the Derg, a Marxist Government which was in power in Ethiopia up to three years before, were very vivid still in the minds of the people, and our work with the Jesuit Relief Service (JRS) was in a town called Hawzien, which we were told was famous because it had been bombed from the air on a market day in 1988, leaving up to 2,500 civilians dead. The women with whom I worked told me that the most important factor in their lives was to be at peace after 17 years of fear and war. 

With my now adult children I visited Tigray again in 2018 and found that our town of Adigrat had grown beyond recognition and was now even home to a University, unimaginable in our days. The Tigray capital Mekelle, like many other cities we visited on our Ethiopian trip, had also grown and developed amazingly. Peace had brought opportunities for growth and relative prosperity in many towns. 

So why am I appealing to you all to pray now for Tigray, the most northern of the provinces of Ethiopia, home to approx. 6 million people and bordering on Eritrea on the Red Sea?  Sadly the peace did not last and it breaks my heart to think of the people and places which were so much part of our lives, devastated once again by war.

According to estimates, some 600,000 people have fallen victim to a civil war in Ethiopia’s Tigray region in the space of two years, a war that the world has barely noticed. The war followed a power struggle between the Ethiopian central government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front. The TPLF had dominated Ethiopia’s national politics for three decades, until a new Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed came to power in 2018. Ahmed proved to be a young and confident prime minister who pushed the TPLF back into its home region. The power struggle escalated, resulting in war and a blockade of Tigray that probably cost more lives than the fighting.

Imagine having to survive over two years during which all communications with the outside world were cut, no mobile phones, no social media, no news, no electricity, no banks, no medicines, no food, no schools or universities, no safety from terrible war crimes carried out by all sides including Eritreans, invited in by the Prime Minister, who had a long history of conflict with Tigray and who were said to be the cruellest of all.

Thankfully on Nov. 2, 2022, two years after the war began, the parties signed a peace agreement in the South African capital of Pretoria.  Since then, Tigray has been in a state between war and peace. Parts of the region are still occupied, but the battles are over. Relief supplies are arriving, and there is gasoline, electricity and in some places internet again. But there are not enough relief supplies, and the lines at the gas stations are hundreds of meters long.  The UN reports that only 16% of necessary relief has reached those who need it up to 13th March 2023.

But when does peace begin? When you can again cultivate the fields without fear of being shot by soldiers? When schools reopen after more than 2 years.  When Government employees get paid again? When hospitals have enough medicine to treat patients and don’t have to send them away? When you can forget? When justice is done?  When so many terrible things have happened as in Tigray, does that make peace impossible? Or all the more urgent? (I acknowledge an article in Neue Zürcher Zeitung, NZZ, 6 March 2023 as source of much of the above information)

So let us pray for Tigray,

  • For those who are hungry and hopeless, that the blockades will finally be lifted and that relief food and medical supplies will get through unimpeded to those who need them most.
  • For God’s comfort and provision for people who have lost their loved ones, their homes and their treasured possessions.
  • For those who inflict war crimes, including rape and murder, of innocent civilians, that they will be touched with the compassion of a loving God.
  • For leaders, that they will put the suffering, of all their people, first and work for peace in time, before any more lives are lost.
  • For an end to Ethnic Conflict: for peace, unity and reconciliation for all Ethiopians.
  • For refugees and internally displaced persons that they will be protected and lead to safety.
  • That international relief agencies and missionaries will be given the security and freedom to care for those who are suffering.
  • For an end to fake news and a respect for truth and transparency and human rights.
  • For those suffering from drought and hunger in Ethiopia, and throughout the East African region.
  • For climate justice and responsibility in the Global North and a realisation of the impact of their actions on the poorer countries of the South.
  • For justice and reconciliation for those who have suffered so that they can move on with their lives.
  • For religious leaders that they will preach love and peace in the face of prejudice and hatred.
  • For an end to wars everywhere and a realisation that war never solves anything and that in the end warring parties have to talk so why not do it before hundreds of lives are lost and unbearable suffering endured by the most vulnerable, the poor, women and children, and those with special needs.
  • Above all please pray that this peace in Tigray will last and that there will be no return to hostilities, because these poor people cannot endure any more suffering.

Lord please listen to these and the prayers in the hearts of those who have been suffering, hidden from the media cameras and interest of the global community. 

by Sally Roddy, former member of ISJPIC LSA



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