In a recent statement delivered on Tigrai Media House (TMH), His Holiness Abune Mathias the first, Sixth Patriarch and Catholicos of Ethiopia, Archbishop of Axum and Ichege of the See of Saint Taklehaimanot, expressed his sorrow at the horrific death of Tigrayans [after being] burned alive in Benshangul Gumuz. The following is a translation (with specified parts summarized) of his statement. The video is linked below.
[Minutes 1.04 – 4.20] The main reason I am appearing on TMH today is to express my sorrow at the horrific and deeply saddening act that was committed a few days ago near Metekel in the Benshangul Gumuz region. In this current month, the month of Megabit, 2014 according to the Ethiopian calendar, 12 Tigrayans, who had been released from a correction facility in Gilgel Beles after being found not guilty by the courts and with documents evidencing this were heading to their homes when government security forces and others with them stopped them on the road and killed them. One of them tried to escape but they found him where he was hiding and burned him alive, while his eyes were still seeing [still conscious].
They threw him onto the fire like firewood and kindling amongst those that had been shot and burned in a pyre. They threw him on the fire cruelly and barbarically and he burned together with the others even as he pleaded for his life saying “please leave me alone”. This is something that has horrified and troubled the world, It is an act of barbarity.
There has been nothing that we have not heard or seen since the start of the war in 2013 (Ethiopian Calendar). The suffering that has been brought upon the people of Tigray has never been seen or heard before this time is cause for deep grieving and mourning. Acts have been committed that make one despise being alive. But what has been done now is even worse than everything [that has happened before].
[Minutes 9.42 to end] Nothing has been left in Tigray. And now in addition to all of this, children are crying in their mothers’ arms and perishing from starvation, like dried leaves. We are seeing their weeping mothers unable to even breastfeed them because the mothers themselves are starving. People are dropping like leaves [dying in mass] because of the blockade preventing food and medical aid from international humanitarian organizations. It is impossible to estimate the number of people dying from disease, hunger, and lack of medication. We have seen all of this. We have grown accustomed to it. But now, to make matters worse, we are seeing a person being thrown into the fire alive, like firewood while he is still alive and seeing [conscious]. This truly makes you despise being created. Why were we created?
The war, that was started to annihilate Tigrayans, to destroy Tigrayans, to eradicate them from the face of the world has now spread across Ethiopia and is bringing instability, unrest, famine, and trouble in most parts of Ethiopia. There is a lot of instability, unrest, and death occurring in Oromia, Benshangul Gumuz, and various areas. It is spreading everywhere, everyone is being affected. This is something that is deeply grieving.
Something that should not have occurred has occurred. A genocide the likes of which the world has never seen has been committed. They testify with their own mouths that they were instructed to kill all boys above the age of 5. They took defenseless children and young people, who had not fired a single shot or thrown a single pebble, and threw them down cliffs and burned them alive.
For example, in Humera, countless residents had their hands tied behind them and after being shot they were thrown into the Tekeze River. This is still happening now. It has not stopped. This type of cruelty is barbarous. In all truth, even a beast does not feed upon its own kind. A tiger does not eat another tiger nor does a lion eat another lion, in the natural order of things. What is the meaning behind committing such a crime against a human being created in the image of God? What does it mean?
I urge you to consider in the name of God, this act that has shocked the world; what does it mean to throw someone alive and seeing [conscious] onto a fire, like kindling? This is something that barbarians would not have done. No, they would not have done such a thing. It has never been done. It is very cruel. It is cruelty and hate beyond measure. Things are getting worse and worse by the day. The country has been damaged severely, not prospered at all. While the intention was to destroy Tigrayans, the destruction is now being shared by everyone.
I mourn this. I have not had much opportunity [to speak out] like this, until now. Only once, a little something managed to make it (referring to the video which was smuggled out in May 202) out but I have not had an opportunity like this before.
After this, it would be good if this was the end of it. I say it would be good if peace was made so that the people that have survived can live in peace and the children that have survived could grow up in peace.
There is limitless hate, beyond measure [but] a country cannot be built on hate, it will only collapse. Who profits from hate? from killing each other? Who is the person who profits from that? It seems like the battle is with God himself. The way I see it now, the fight is with God: Why were the Tigrayans created? Why did God create them? Why was a land called Tigray and a language called Tigrinya created? But it is impossible to win a fight with God.
As I have mentioned before, what is terrible beyond everything else is that while there are trucks fully loaded with the food, medical, and other aid that was given by humanitarians waiting on the roads people are dying from hunger. Why? This is not right. It is impossible to completely eradicate a people. We have seen a lot in history, we know that peoples that have endured genocide like this were not completely eradicated, they were not wiped out. The people of Tigray will not cease to exist. They [Tigrayans] are human beings and God does not wish for people created in His own image to be eradicated.
I want the world to look at this situation. I know the world has seen it. I don’t mean that the world doesn’t know. In fact, I think the world is tired. The international community has been urging us to stop, to reconcile, to stop, and to make peace. But this has gone unheard.
We are observing that this situation serves no one. We (Ethiopians) are all going down and not rising. What has already happened has happened, those that have died are lost, and that which has been destroyed is gone. God will not ignore the blood of innocents. The weeping of Rachel (Jeremiah 31:15) and the blood of Abel (Genesis 4.10) were heard before God.
As we know from the bible in the past the mighty King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon threw the three young men into the fire but God saved them (Daniel 3). With the same [type of] cruelty, they were thrown into the flames, the three young men, Anania, Azaria, and Misael (Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego), Israelites that he had captured and brought them from Jerusalem, but God saved them. Even though the King had condemned them, God saved them.
But these Tigrayans were burned. They were burned. They were burned. It is exceedingly terrible. It is terrible. It makes one despise being created. It makes one despise being created as a human.
My sorrow is deep. This is a loss for all Ethiopians but particularly a loss for the people of Tigray. The suffering is now spreading to everyone. It is gradually spreading across all of Ethiopia. This should be the end. Why is it not possible for us to feel forgiveness or compassion for the surviving people?
May God bring his salvation, for all our people. The people of Tigray are eating leaves. The sick are dying from a lack of medication. They are dying. This injustice should end. We should see an end to this type of cruelty committed by humans on other human beings.
May God bring his mercy. May God bring his mercy. May God give us his peace and love. May God save us from eating (destroying) each other.
Summary [Minutes 4.20 – 9.40]
His holiness also detailed prior atrocities that have been committed on the Tigrayan people since November 2020
- Massacre of young people, for e.g. Mahbere Deigo
- Axum Massacre
- Maryam Dengelat Massacre (indiscriminate killing of clergy and worshipers at a festival)
- The countless killed as a result of indiscriminate drone and aerial attacks on civilians
- Lootings of private property including cattle slaughtered and stolen
- Sexual violence (Those that reported alone are estimated to be 120 thousand)
- Deliberate destruction and spoiling of food reserves
- Health facilites and infrastrucuture deliberately destroyed