Young Ethiopian Christians are bribed with jobs and education prospects if they convert to Islam, according to the UK-based charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).
A Christian religious leader who wished to remain anonymous told ACN that Christians who are poor were especially targeted.
“The [Muslim employers] are getting the younger ones – with scholarships, promises for jobs, and so on … Unemployment is at a very high rate in Ethiopia, so this is very attractive to the young people.
“They are told if you want a job you must live like this … You find hundreds or even thousands of young people waiting at the crossroads of towns and villages to see if they can find work,” he said.
He referred to one diocese where Muslims owned the marble and gold mines and people were only given jobs if they were Muslim.
He also said that with money from Saudi Arabia new mosques were being built in areas where it was difficult to get permission to build new churches, adding that he was afraid that Ethiopia – with a tradition of Muslims and Christians living together peacefully – was heading in the direction of Egypt and other countries that have seen an increase in the influence of foreign Islamic hard-liners.
An estimated 34 per cent of Ethiopia’s population is Muslim and 63 pe rcent Christian, according to the US State Department’s Religious Freedom Report for 2017.
Some of Ethiopia’s largely autonomous state administrations, such as the Somali Region Zone Five, are governed by Islamic principles and most of those holding government positions in Zone Five are Muslims, as World Watch Monitor has reported.
Most Christians in Ethiopia belong to the Ethiopian Orthodox Church (EOC), one of the oldest churches in Africa, dating back to the fourth century. The EOC no longer has the status of ‘state Church’, but still wields significant influence in state and religious affairs.
Also, Mahibere Kidusan, a conservative movement within the Church, has been posing a growing threat to non-traditional Protestants. The movement has been accused of wanting to control government policies to restrict the activities of other religions.