Many believe Ethiopia was the first country to accept Christianity – now for some it is being outlawed

ReutersEthiopian Orthodox faithful attend Easter eve prayers at Medhane Alem church in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on April 15

Christianity could be outlawed in Ethiopia for smaller congregations and house churches where worshippers meet for less formal prayer or smaller services.

Tigray State, in the north of Ethiopia, is considering changing its laws to ban Christian activities outside official church compounds, reports World Watch Monitor.

Evangelical Christians and other non-Orthodox groups would be the worst hit by the new law, which will set a minimum number of 6,000 members for any church wanted to authorised as official. Proselytism outside the new official compounds willl be outlawed. 

A similar law has already been enacted in a neighbouring state.

Ethiopia, Africa's oldest independent country, is believed by some to have been the first nation in the world to accept Christianity as its religion. Like many countries in Africa, the religious landscape is being changed by fast-growing Pentecostal churches.

It is currently at number 22 on the World Watch List of Christian persecution.

Christian believers are increasingly threatened by Islamist extremists. 

WWM tells the story of Tutu, a widow, and her son who live in a mainly Muslim area and have faced difficulties since her husband died.

'After his burial, local Muslims dug up his body and dumped it by the side of the road. In January, Biruk was assaulted and told that he and his mother would continue to face trouble until they converted to Islam. On March 4, their house was burned down,' reports WWM.

It is part of growing general unrest in the country.

Earlier this month, a report was published showing that 669 people were killed in violence that only ended when a state of emergency was imposed last October. Protesters have criticised the government for an authoritarian approach to economic development, even though the economy is growing fast.

The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission has said security forces have taken disproportionate measures in some areas. In one case, security forces fired teargas at protesters during a thanksgiving religious festival of the Oroma people. Dozens died in the resulting stampede.

Ethiopia is regarded as a vital Western ally against Islamist militants in neighbouring Somalia.

WATCH: Christian persecution in Ethiopia

Additional reporting by Reuters

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