The government generally respected constitutional protections of religious freedom and separation of church and state. However, there were reports of abuses of religious freedom.
There were reports of detention during the year. In December police held three journalists from Muslim Affairs magazine briefly without charge after the magazine published articles critical of the Ethiopian Islamic Affairs Supreme Council (EIASC). In addition, there were scattered reports of religious detainees allegedly held briefly by local officials in Oromia and SNNPR who were acting on their own authority and independently of central government policy.
During the year, there were allegations of government interference in the affairs of religious groups. For example, there were reports of government interference in the leadership and activity of the EIASC, and of complaints that this alleged meddling violated the constitutional protection of religious freedom.
The government continued to ban Waka-Feta, a traditional animist Oromo religious group, due to suspicion of a relationship between the group’s leaders and the banned Oromo Liberation Front.
In July an anti-extremism training platform, run jointly by the EIASC and the Ministry of Federal Affairs (MoFED), began to propagate the tenets of anti-extremism to imams and other Muslim religious leaders. Some Muslims complained, however, that the anti-extremism training was a vehicle to import an alien Islamic tradition called “al-Ahbash” into Ethiopia from Lebanon and Syria.
There were reports of discrimination including in the areas of registration and land allocation. Religious organizations, similar to NGOs, must renew their registrations with the Ministry of Justice every three years. However, the EOC and the EIASC are not required to reregister and do not face government sanctions, prompting some other religious groups to say there is a double standard.
Protestants alleged inequities in treatment by local officials when seeking land for churches and cemeteries, as compared to the EOC and the EIASC. MoFED characterized the perceived inequities as a result of poor governance at the local level and zoning regulations that govern a property’s proposed and existing communal use functions. MoFED began a new effort to standardize the management of land through the issuance of directives.
Various religious groups, mainly Protestant denominations, continued to seek the return of property confiscated between 1977 and 1991 by the previous regime, whose policies of land nationalization disproportionately affected religious institutions, especially those the regime considered “newcomer” religions. In Addis Ababa and Oromia, federal provisions granted the return of such buildings; however, this did not include structures registered under regional statutes. In practice, there are very few cases in this category and none has been publicly active in recent years.
In November 2010 the Israeli cabinet agreed to allow up to 7,846 Ethiopian Falash Mura, who live primarily in the Gonder area, to immigrate to Israel in a series of staggered arrivals. That emigration began during the year, with about 2,800 Falash Mura moving to Israel. Falash Mura is a distinct category from the Falasha Jews who immigrated to Israel from the country during the famine in the late 1980s. Falasha are practicing Jews. Falash Mura claim matrilineal Jewish heritage, but do not actively practice Judaism.