“I must speak out when the Church is silent”

Lisanewerk DestaLisanewerk Desta is not a man who is easily silenced.

A theologian who is the head of the library and museum department of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, he was at home last November when about a dozen police officers with machine guns barged into his home in Addis.

The men, who had no warrant, Lisanewerk said, poured groceries onto the floor, emptied his clothes drawers and even looked inside his clay coffee pot, seemingly searching for something to incriminate him.

They confiscated only one item, he said: his Ethiopian identification card, which shows that he is a Tigrayan.

“I’m a scholar of the church, I’ve got nothing to be afraid of,” Lisanewerk told the New York Times.

“But now I am under suspicion.”

The Tigray war

Lisanewerk knows the suffering the Tigrayan people are enduring from personal experience.

Two of his uncles were killed near Mekelle and some of his friends, almost certainly by Eritrean forces, who now work as integrated units with the Ethiopian troops.

“More than four soldiers raped one of the women in my family in Degua Tenbien, Hagereselam, near Mekelle.”

As a historian and curator he is also deeply worried by the theft of manuscripts. He says he has heard of parchment scrolls being removed from sacred sites and taken to Eritrea.

The car belonging to the Diocese of Adigrat was looted and driven into Eritrea.

Yet the Orthodox Church remains unresponsive, says Lisanewerk. “I need the sound of the church,” he says, “but they are silent.

He believes the people long for guidance from the Patriarch. “People need to hear from Abuna Matthias.”

He has heard stories about the massacre in Aksum, but even here there have been no public statements. Lisanewerk compares this reaction with the response to other atrocities.

“A lot of Bishops support the government,” he says. “When there are deaths in Oromia and the Amhara region they speak up, but not when people die in Tigray.”




  1. Hier we go again mr.Plaut. NEVER ENDING STORY.
    your hate against the amahara ppl neve ends. You will not achieve your goals.

    1. Mr. Plaut and thousands of other journalists around the world are fullfiling their sacred journalistic obligation – to unvaile hiddden justice any where in the world. In regard to this, they are doing out-standing work in this dark-days of ours. They have already made a big diffrence: the International Community listened to their whistle-blow and are engaged in saving lives of our own brothern #ethiopians right this minute. Instead of discouraging the PLAUTS of the world we should incourage and thank them from our heart – as I am doing right now.

      Having said above, let me say few words to you and your kins.

      If you are just blubbering because you are #amhara a better ethiopian-duty will be to tell your kins to stop the #genocide they are busy with. For your informationn, no one is asking for a retribution for your nationalities crimes subjected on us ( the marginalized people ) for the past two hundered years. All we ask you now is ‘let us be equally united under a A FEDERAL ETHIOPIA’. I can’t understand what is wrong with this. If you see other wise ask your knowledgables and please write it down here. That is if you beleive in democratic dialog. Else let us continue rumbling!

      Thank you Mr. Plaut for providing us this free areana. It is enabling us to talk to each other as me and Mr.Woldeyohanes are doing right now. This is a tremondeous humanterian assistance you are providing us – #ethiopians. It is the ground-layer for the coming national dialog. Your contribution is well remembered for ever!

  2. It is heartbreaking story. I condemn the action of the government. What makes me upset more is the silence of the church’s authority . All God fearing people must say enough is enough .

  3. The agony, atrocities and devastation what the Isayas defence forces and Ethiopia force are perpetrating on the Tigray ppl are just unimaginable! But this too shall pass. Tigray ppl will rise like a Phoenix from the ashes unequivocally

  4. “When there are deaths in Oromia and the Amhara region they speak up, but not when people die in Tigray.” – These are the Bishops and the clergy whom were supposed to be above pity-worldly-stuff, impartial to all and as such the pillars of unity! What is happening here? Has there ever been a whole nationality who chose to have a common amnesia about their past? If the answer is no, here we do have one in #ethiopia – the #amhara nationality.
    #amhara were the colonizers of #ethiopia for the past 2 hundred years ( Menilik to Derg ). For that long period the rule of the day was #amhara is the superior of all and the ultimate policy is AMARAZITION of all. During this period they amassed uncountable wealth at the expense of us – the marginalized people. They also enjoyed non-competitive educational opportunities donated by the International Communities for the people of #ethiopia. That is why they are by the hundred’s of thousands in the USA and that is why they have so many Professors and Doctors. In regard to their AMARIZATION they failed heavily; only a society of higher advanced culture absorbs societies of less advanced culture and they don’t equate as the ones with higher culture.
    Today they the real force behind the #tigre #genocide. #abiy is their puppet – nothing more. They are using him to hide behind the name of #ethiopia Their ultimate goal is to return the country to the era of the emperor-ship and thus their past superiority. How naive of #abiy – they already lost him his base support – the #oromo – and still he believes them as comrades-in-arms. This guy is surely maddened by the kingdom his mom foresaw. No need to repeat about the noble duty they could have done and what they amounted to. I have detailed about that in prior comment in this site. ( see wadani1 comment under “Extreme urgent need’: Starvation haunts Ethiopia’s Tigray” ) at this site.

    #amara and their puppet #abiy will lose this war for the following reasons.
    • #eritrea is kicked out of #ethiopia already. The #un, #eu, #england and #usa have already given warning to #isias. He is getting out for his own sake.
    • The military are already throwing their guns – like the derg’s did – for they realized it isn’t worth dying for a cause that is against your nationality’s interest.
    • No other #ethiopian nationality has enmity towards #tigrepeople as they are all on the same page with #tplf’s – FEDERAL ETHIOPIA.

    Can’t waite the outcome!

  5. All these kinds of attacks against Tigrean clergymen were and currently committed by Mahibre kidusan intelligence officers who posed as deacons , merigetas and zemarian . It is customary to see mahibrekidusan members to call themselves deacon , merigeta and zemari and zemarit.

    This NGO is not a collection of Christians but disguised members of political party . This must be dismantled . They enrich their company by stealing taxes from all young graduates of universities. Since they brainwash them while they are freshmen at their colleges.

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