Four Christian teenagers have been arrested in an Ethiopian town after distributing Christian literature.
According to World Watch Monitor, the four – Eden, 15, Gifti and Mihiret, both 14, and Deborah, 18 – were distributing a Christian book in Amharic, Ethiopia's main language, by a local author, entitled: Let's speak the truth in love: Answers to questions by Ahmed Deedat.
The book sets out to answer questions posed by the late South African Islamic scholar and former head of the Islamic Propagation Centre International about the Christian faith. Christians in Babile, around 550 km east of the capital Addis Ababa, decided to distribute it following cross-cultural evangelism training.
However, local Muslims said the book was an insult to Islam and on September 19 a group attacked the Protestant Meserete Kristos Church (MKC), in Babile, damaging its doors and windows.
Town officials arranged a meeting between religious leaders the next day, at which leaders of both the MKC and also the local Full Gospel Church (FGC) apparently apologised for the distribution of the book, from which they distanced themselves.
At a wider public meeting the same day, town officials criticised "some elements" who wanted to "incite religious clashes" and warned that they would take further measures against such "instigators". The Full Gospel Church was also atttacked and the leader of the MKC church was threatened.
The four girls have made several court appearances and their case has now been transferred to a higher court in the city of Harar.
According to World Watch Monitor, there is concern over their wellbeing; Eden suffered a beating on her first night in prison. However, its source, who visited them in prison, said their faith was unshaken. Eden said: "This [suffering] is an honour for us. We should expect persecution. We are not afraid. We are singing and praying here in prison." Deborah said: "It is an honour to be jailed for God's Kingdom".
While Ethiopia says it guarantees freedom of religion, evangelical Christians frequently face discrimination and harrassment.